Ivory Ban Approved by New York Governor Cuomo


New York governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an ivory ban law in efforts to help reduce poaching of animals including elephants and rhinoceroses.

Governor Cuomo signed the ivory ban into law on August 12—World Elephant Day—in hopes to raise awareness about the gruesome practice of poaching these majestic, threatened creatures.

Poaching for illegal ivory is a huge problem on the African continent. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the number of African elephants has dwindles from more than 1.2 million in 1980 to less than 420,000 today.

Forest elephants, which are a separate species from the better-known savannah elephants, are faring much worse as a result of poaching for illegal ivory. Their numbers are down to fewer than 100,000, and experts say outright extinction of the forest elephants could occur in the next decade.

Under the New York ban, ivory that’s less than 100 years old or makes up more than 20 percent of antique ivory products, can no longer be sold in the state (some musical instruments excluded). According to Bloomberg Businessweek, some of the violations can carry felony charges.

Now, some New York state antique dealers say they may leave the state over the new rule because antique ivory from elephants and rhinoceros horns make up a big chunk of their businesses. For some it’s as much as 20 percent.

There are also federal rules now on the sale or trade of ivory as well; and it’s causing similar ripples among those in the ivory trade—most of which was acquired legally, before restrictions went into effect. But the government isn’t too interested in discerning between legal and illegal ivory. Even museums are in danger of losing exhibit pieces.

Ivory is quickly becoming the veal of the antique world. It’s not something most people can look at without seeing the giant beasts once attached to it. But what’s to be gained in prohibiting the sale of existing ivory? If the food analogy holds true, letting perfectly good ivory sit in warehouses seems like a waste, and certainly not a way to honor the animals who paid the ultimate sacrifice for it.

At a recent hearing on the issue, some critics questioned “whether criminalizing the civilian ivory market would be as effective as helping African countries protect elephants and punish poachers,” reports the New York Times. But federal officials hold firm in the position that “the reduction in demand will invariably put a dent in poaching efforts.” And if that’s the case, it looks like any ban may just be worth it.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.