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New Strategy to Curtail Illegal Wildlife Trade, Including Ban on Elephant Ivory

Thursday, February 13, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Obama administration announced Feb. 11 a new national strategy aimed at countering the “global security threat posed by poaching and illegal trade in wildlife.” The U.S. is also imposing new restrictions on the import, export and commercial sale of elephant ivory within the U.S. A White House fact sheet encourages other countries to “join us in taking ambitious action to combat wildlife trafficking” at this week’s London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

Trade Strategy. The National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking establishes three priorities: strengthening domestic and global enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife at home and abroad, and strengthening partnerships with international partners, local communities, non-governmental organizations, private industry and others. The strategy asserts that, like other forms of illicit trade, wildlife trafficking undermines security across nations when “well-armed networks of poachers, criminals, and corrupt officials exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from trading in illegally taken wildlife.”

Strengthening enforcement will include efforts to toughen U.S. laws and import/export regulations prohibiting wildlife trafficking; optimize the wildlife inspection presence at U.S. ports of entry; improve coordination and prioritize wildlife trafficking across enforcement, regulatory and intelligence agencies; integrate wildlife trafficking, where appropriate, with other efforts to combat transnational organized crime; help partner countries develop wildlife trafficking laws and build enforcement capacity; assist and participate in multinational enforcement operations targeting illegal trade in wildlife; and dismantle trafficking networks by, among other things, identifying corrupt foreign officials, entities and individuals and targeting their assets for forfeiture and repatriation.

To reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife, the U.S. will work at home and abroad to raise public awareness of wildlife trafficking and its negative impacts on species, the environment, security, food supplies, the economy and human health; target consumption patterns and discourage the sale and purchase of illegally traded wildlife; and ask communities to reconsider longstand­ing traditions that might incentivize or contribute to wildlife trafficking.

The U.S. will also work to expand international cooperation and commitment by encouraging partners to treat wildlife trafficking as a serious crime; strengthening implementation of international agreements and arrangements that protect wildlife; using existing and future free trade agreements, environmental cooperation mechanisms and other trade-related initiatives to combat wildlife trafficking; and building partnerships with governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, local communities and the private sector to develop and implement innovative and effective approaches to combating wildlife trafficking. ‍

Ivory Ban. With respect to the ban on elephant ivory, federal departments and agencies will

immediately undertake administrative actions on the following.

- All commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, will be prohibited.

- All commercial exports will be prohibited except for bona fide antiques and certain non-commercial items.

- The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter or seller to demonstrate that an item qualifies as an antique (i.e., is more than 100 years old and meets other requirements under the Endangered Species Act).

- A final rule will reaffirm and clarify that sales across state lines are prohibited, except for bona fide antiques, and will prohibit sales within a state unless the seller can demonstrate that an item was lawfully imported prior to 1990 for African elephants and 1975 for Asian elephants, or under an exemption document.

- A previous Fish and Wildlife Service special rule that relaxed Endangered Species Act restrictions on African elephant ivory trade will be revoked.

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