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Ivory Sales Banned in U.S. as 35,000 Elephants Die a Year

February 11, 2014

Ivory Sales Banned in U.S. as 35,000 Elephants Die Each Year

Edward Grace, right, Deputy Assistant Director for Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service destroys six tons of confiscated ivory during U.S. Ivory Crush at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 14, 2013 in Commerce City, Colorado. Photographer: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The U.S. will ban interstate sales of elephant ivory, a move aimed at cracking down on global wildlife trafficking that puts endangered species at risk, the Obama administration said today.

Imports of ivory to the U.S. were outlawed more than 20 years ago, and the new rules allow only limited exceptions for sales of antiques brought into the U.S. before the prohibition, according to a White House statement. Obama administration officials cited increased worldwide trade in elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns as they announced the ban.

“Record high demand for wildlife products, coupled with inadequate preventative measures and weak institutions, has resulted in an explosion of illicit trade in wildlife in recent years, with the increasing involvement of organized transnational criminal syndicates,” Associate Attorney General Tony West said today in an e-mailed statement.

President Barack Obama’s administration acted in advance of the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which starts tomorrow. Poaching claims about 35,000 elephants per year worldwide and took the lives of 1,000 rhinoceroses in South Africa last year alone.

At $45,000 per pound, rhino horn is worth $2,812.50 per ounce. That’s more than the $1,290.60 per ounce price for gold futures for April delivery at 3:39 p.m. on the Comex in New York.

“This trade undermines security, fuels corruption and contributes to the spread of disease, and it is decimating iconic animal populations,” West said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at

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