Representative demands tighter grip on U.S. illegal ivory trade

July 9, 2015
In The News

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said Tuesday the United States needs to do more to stop the illegal ivory trade.

“Every day, 96 African elephants are killed by poachers for their highly valued ivory,” Lieu said during debate on a budget bill for the Department of the Interior. “With only a few hundred thousand of these elephants remaining, this illegal practice imperils their very existence.”

A section in the proposed appropriations bill would bar the use of funds to restrict the ivory trade in the U.S., which is one of the largest markets for illegal ivory.

Lieu argued that the prohibition would undermine progress made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which issued a ban on the import of items containing African elephant ivory in February 2014.

However, critics say that ban is too broad and House Republicans have sought to limit enforcement, political website The Hill reported.

Lieu said the issue goes beyond wildlife protection because terrorist organizations trade in ivory to raise funds.

Organized criminal gangs at the heart of trafficking rings have also been implicated in moving drugs, arms and people and have gunned down hundreds of park rangers who protect elephants, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wildlife advocates.

In June, to highlight its crackdown on illegal ivory, the federal agency took to New York’s Times Square to crush more than one ton of ivory it seized during an undercover raid.