California Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Ban on Ivory and Rhino Horns

In a another victory for imperiled wildlife, this week California lawmakers voted to ban the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horns in the state in an effort to protect these species from getting killed by poachers.

In 1989, international sales of ivory were banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but loopholes still allow people to own and sell ivory that was imported before that, which is known as ‘pre-ban’ ivory.

California created its own law regarding ivory in 1976, which currently makes it illegal to import or sell elephant parts, but a loophole in the state allows for the sale of ivory that was imported before 1977.

The problem with that is that no one can tell the difference and many continue to argue that allowing some legalized ivory sales offers a cover for the illegal trade and has made the law virtually impossible to enforce.

In an effort to crack down on the trade in the state, Assembly speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Ricardo Lara introduced AB 96 earlier this year– named for the 96 elephants killed each day for their tusks.

The bill closes the loophole and bans “buying, selling, offering for sale, possessing with intent to sell or importing with intent to sell elephant ivory or rhinoceros horn, except as specified under very limited educational and scientific circumstances, and would make this prohibition enforceable by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

Anyone with ivory who wants to sell it has until until July 1, 2016. After that date, selling will become be a misdemeanor, leaving anyone who gets caught facing fines of up to $50,000 and a year in jail.

“Ninety-six elephants are killed every day for their ivory – translating to 35,000 deaths each year,” said Speaker Atkins. “This species loss is unsustainable and African elephants are being poached at a higher rate than they are being born, which will result in their extinction. By passing AB 96, the Legislature can help strengthen enforcement against the illegal ivory trade in California, which will, in turn, help put an end to poaching.”

The change in California would be a big step towards protecting rhinos and elephants. According to a recent report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco and Los Angeles have been identified as two of the largest markets of potentially illegal ivory sales behind New York City.

While California’s legislation still needs a signature from Governor Jerry Brown to become a law, two more major efforts to protect elephants are in the works. In July, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) formally announced a proposed rule that would restrict imports and ban the sale of ivory across state lines, while the Center for Biological Diversity also petitioned the FWS to have African elephants declared as two separate species – forest elephants and savannah elephants – and upgraded from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act, which would add even more strength to laws intended to protect them.


The proposed rule to crack down on ivory is now open for public comment, if you would like to make one in support of tougher regulations for the ivory trade, you can submit one at the Federal Register.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Hope it works...

Jacqueline GLYDE3 years ago

Now let's get it world wide!!

Magdalena C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you!

Julia Cabrera-Woscek

The whole nation should be ban to this .

Silvia Steinhilber

Kudos to Calofornia! Can't believe this is taking so long.....

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Thank you

Hent catalina - maria

Thank you!

Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago


Sara G.
Sara G3 years ago

Good news to build on. Much more to do!