California moved closer to joining New York and New Jersey in banning intrastate ivory trade when AB 96 passed by a June 1, 2015 vote of 53-12 in California’s State Assembly. The bill is now before California’s Senate, was amended on June 17, 2015, and a vote is expected within the next several months. The amended text can be accessed here: https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB96/id/1249806
The bill is aptly named AB 96 because approximately 96 elephants per day are slaughtered in Africa by ivory poachers, reducing the elephant populations in Tanzania by 60+% in 5 years, in Mozambique by nearly 50% and in Central Africa by 65% in 10 years. In sum, up to 35,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every year, primarily for the ivory trade.
There has been an international ban on ivory trade since 1989; however, there remained a brisk intrastate trade in the United States, with New York as the biggest ivory market, California as the second biggest market and New Jersey as a significant entry point for smuggled ivory.
States including California enacted laws to stop intrastate trading but California’s law, in particular, had a loophole allowing substantial illicit ivory trading. California’s previous law allowed the intrastate trade of ivory imported before 1977. That exception made the law nearly unenforceable, with a large corresponding illegal market.
AB 96 eliminates all but minor exceptions by:
– abolishing the pre-1977 exception;
– banning the sale, offer for sale, possession with intent to sell, and importation with intent to sell of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn;
– increasing penalties for trafficking in ivory and rhino horn to up to $50,000 or an amount equal to two times the value of the wildlife involved in the violation, whichever is greater, and/or one year in prison;
– excepting antique musical instruments with proper documentation;
– excepting antiques with less than 5% ivory;
– allowing the restricted purchase and sale of ivory for scientific and educational purposes;
– allowing the bequest of ivory objects owned prior to the law’s passage.
Though New York, New Jersey and California are the only 3 states with outright bans on intrastate ivory trade, there are movements toward banning intrastate ivory trade in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Vermont and Washington.
China, the world’s largest market for ivory products, is being urged by other governments to ban ivory trade. There are supposed signs that China will eventually phase out the ivory trade but there is no specific plan at this point.
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