As hundreds of intricately carved ivory statues flowed up a conveyor belt and into a rock crusher in the middle of Times Square last month, millions around the world were watching a strong statement against wildlife trafficking.

Grounding concern

The global ivory trade is currently responsible for the brutal slaughter of as many as 35,000 elephants per year in Africa. That is 96 elephants per day, or 1 elephant every 15 minutes. As long as there is any market for ivory, armed criminal groups will continue to illegally kill elephants for profit.

Banning ivory products is the next step. Surveys have shown that the number one thing that could deter people from wanting to own ivory is making it illegal. Once possessing ivory is seen as unacceptable, the public demand for it will wane.

Growing support

Based on input from the President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, we expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to soon issue a rule restricting domestic interstate trade in ivory.

"As long as there is a price tag on those tusks and ivory trinkets, poachers and traffickers will continue to kill elephants."

Urged by grassroots conservation coalitions like 96 Elephants, some states are rushing to fill in the gaps by passing laws that stop trade within states that is not covered by the federal regulations. New Jersey and New York led the way last summer, and California is poised to become the third state to ban ivory if Assembly Bill 96 is signed into law this year. Similar efforts are under way in a dozen more states.

Leading by example

While the U.S. does not approach China in the magnitude of ivory consumption, we have little standing to call for action on the part of China or any other ivory consuming nation if we have not done all we can to stop the ivory trade here at home. 

As long as there is a price tag on those tusks and ivory trinkets, poachers and traffickers will continue to kill elephants. By implementing strong ivory bans at the federal and state level, we show the world that ivory holds no value to people unless it remains on an elephant. If we truly want to save the world’s remaining elephants, we can do no less.