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Obama Proposes Strict Rules on US Ivory Trade

On the occasion of his historic trip to East Africa, President Obama pledged stronger measures to end ivory sales in the United States, widely considered to be the world’s second largest market after China.

"Our countries are also close partners in the fight against poachers and traffickers that threaten Kenya's world-famous wildlife," Obama said during a Saturday press conference alongside President Kenyatta of Kenya. "The United States has a ban already on the commercial import of elephant ivory. I can announce we're proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines, which will eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States," while further restricting imports and exports, the President said.

Under current federal law, ivory can be sold legally across state lines if it was imported prior to January 18, 1990, the date when African elephants were officially listed under CITES Appendix I — the greatest level of international protection for threatened and endangered species such as gorillas, tigers and giant pandas. The seller is obligated to prove that ivory was imported before 1990. 

But under the new proposed rule, ivory can be sold across state lines only if:

• An item is an antique exempted under the Endangered Species Act, and is at least 100 years old, among other criteria;

or:

• The item contains only a small amount of ivory — specifically under 200 grams — that was acquired prior to 1990. Musical instruments, firearms and some furniture pieces could fall under this exempted category. 

Hong Kong: World’s Ivory Sales Capital

Hong Kong's ivory market is booming thanks to an influx of tourists seeking luxury items — and that's impeding international efforts to end Africa’s elephant poaching crisis, according to a new report released Wednesday by Save the Elephants.

A survey of 72 Hong Kong retail outlets found nearly 31,000 ivory items displayed for sale, with jewelry the most popular item followed by figurines. Vendors estimated that 90% of customers were tourists from mainland China. 

“No other city surveyed has so many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong,” report co-author Esmond Martin said in a statement. “With higher taxes on the mainland, Hong Kong has become a cheaper place to buy ivory. With 40 million people crossing the border between the territories every year and controls lax, there’s little chance of their getting caught.”

Licensed vendors can legally sell ivory products obtained prior to 1990 when an international ban on ivory imports went into effect. But the city's licensing system has been roundly condemned as ineffective, allowing for the sale of illegal ivory from recently poached elephants.  

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Scenes from the NYC #IvoryCrush

On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) destroyed 1 ton of ivory in New York’s Times Square — a remarkable show of support and solidarity with Africa’s elephants and the people working to stop poaching and the illegal trade. 

WildAid was on hand to witness the destruction of these carvings in a 25-ton rock crusher — check out more photos/video of the event below.

During his remarks, USFWS director Daniel Ashe announced that his agency will be working with WildAid on an upcoming domestic campaign aimed at ending the illegal wildlife trade in the United States. We look forward to working with USFWS and we'll keep you updated on this campaign as it takes shape!

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Tanzania: 'Poaching Steals from Us All'

DAR ES SALAAM (18 June 2015) — Tanzania's Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, in association with WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation, has launched a new public awareness campaign to inform the public about the severe poaching crisis currently facing Tanzania and to generate widespread support among civil society for the protection of elephants and other wildlife species.

The campaign will use television, radio, social media, newspapers and magazines, billboards and videos in public spaces in order to reach as many members of the public as possible, including the residents of remote rural villages.

Tanzania has lost 60% of its elephants in the past six years, mainly because of poaching for ivory. Very large profits from this illegal activity are made in China and other consumer nations, while Tanzanians are left to bear the cost.

Award-winning singer-songwriter Alikiba has become an ambassador for the campaign. "I'm honoured to lend any support that I can to this effort to protect our wildlife,” Alikiba said. "Our beautiful elephants must be allowed to live — free and wild — instead of ending up as a carving on somebody's coffee table."

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China's Pledge to End the Ivory Trade: Why it Matters

In statements made this week by a top Chinese official to the Washington PostChina has pledged a high-level commitment to ending its current legal commercial ivory trade.

While a concrete timetable has yet to be developed, the official, Dr. Meng Xianlin of the CITES Management Authority of China, confirmed the action could happen "very quickly."

WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, who have mounted the world’s largest ivory public awareness campaign with Chinese media, have welcomed this action as a historic move in the fight to save African elephants from rampant poaching. An estimated 33,000 elephants are being killed every year to supply ivory markets in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the U.S. and other nations.

“Ending legal sales of ivory in China is the greatest single step that can be taken to reduce elephant poaching in Africa and we hope it can happen as soon as possible. We applaud China for its leadership and will continue to work closely with Chinese state and private media in our campaigns to reduce demand for ivory," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said.

Lang Lang Urges Chinese Travelers to 'Say No to Ivory’

Lang Lang, one of the world’s most famous classical pianists performing today, has stepped up to fight the global ivory trade in a stirring new public service announcement (PSA) to be distributed throughout his native China, the world’s largest market for ivory. 

As part of the Ivory Free campaign sponsored by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, Lang Lang’s PSA aims to educate the public on the toll that both legal and illegal ivory sales are taking on Africa’s elephants: An estimated 33,000 are poached annually.

Hong Kong Public Supports Ivory Ban

HONG KONG (May 26, 2015) — The Hong Kong public overwhelmingly supports a comprehensive ban on elephant ivory sales, according to a survey by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme released Tuesday. 

The new poll found that 75% of residents interviewed expressed support for outlawing ivory sales, which are currently poorly regulated in Hong Kong. Of those in favor, 55% “very much support” a ban, while 21% “quite support.” Additionally, three-quarters of respondents agreed that the Hong Kong government should stop issuing new ivory possession licenses.

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Recent Spike in Large Seizures of Ivory, Rhino Horn, Pangolin Scales

Over the past two weeks, authorities in multiple countries have arrested smugglers and seized major shipments of illegal wildlife products in Africa and Asia, including rhino horn, elephant ivory and pangolin scales.

The largest such seizure occurred earlier this week in Singapore, where an estimated $6 million in ivory tusks, rhino horn and teeth believed to be from cheetahs and leopards were found stashed in a shipping container filled with bags of tea leaves. 

In each of these six separate cases, the shipments were en route to Vietnam and/or China, or involved smuggling by nationals of those countries.

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'Illicit Ivory' Premieres May 28

On Thursday, May 28, "Illicit Ivory," a documentary by acclaimed environmental investigative series EARTH FOCUS, premieres on Link TV. If you're in Southern California, the show premieres Wednesday, May 27 on KCET.

A captivating examination of the ivory trade's ties to organized crime and insurgent groups, Illicit Ivory features interviews with global experts on the trade, including WildAid CEO Peter Knights. 

Both Link and KCET will stream the show online following the broadcast premiere. 

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Hong Kong Lawmaker Pushes for Ivory Ban

Photo: Hong Kong legislative councillor Dr. Elizabeth Quat, © Alex Hofford/WildAid

Movement is afoot to crack down on one of the world’s largest illegal ivory markets that’s fueling the rampant slaughter of African elephants.  

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