Oregon ivory bill introduced to close deadly loophole

March 11, 2015 - 3:20pm

New legislation takes aim at illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn

Today wildlife advocates in Salem announced new legislation to end the trade of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn in Oregon.

Championed by Sen. Mark Hass, Senate Bill 913 prohibits the sale of any ivory article or rhinoceros horn, closing loopholes that allow the black market to go unchecked. The bill's supporters include The Humane Society of the United States, the Oregon Zoo, the Kenya Legal Project, Wild Aid, the Oregon Humane Society, Performing Animal Welfare Society and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

"Ivory trafficking is an international crisis directly contributing to the endangerment of elephants and rhinos, and it is also linked to funding terrorist organizations," Sen. Hass said. "It is important that Oregon take a stand against this illegal trade."

In 2014, the Obama administration announced a federal ban that prohibits nearly all commercial imports, exports and interstate sales of elephant ivory. That law leaves ivory sales within states uncontrolled, which bolsters a black market for newly poached ivory.

The Oregon ivory bill does not make possession of ivory illegal, and makes certain exceptions for the sale of common antique pieces containing small amounts of ivory, such as ivory-inlaid musical instruments, guns and knives.

New York and New Jersey passed ivory moratoria last year, and similar bills have been introduced in Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, Iowa, Oklahoma and Washington state.

"The black market trade in ivory and rhino horn is driving global rhino and elephant populations to the brink of extinction," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director for The Humane Society of the United States. "Oregon can do its part to protect these iconic animals by passing SB 913 to crack down on the sale of these products within the borders of our state."

Illegal killing reduced the African elephant population from 1.2 million in 1989 to 420,000 in 2012. The majority of ivory tusks are turned into ornamental objects, jewelry and trinkets.

High ivory prices have attracted insurgent terrorist groups such as al-Shabab and al-Qaida. State legislation would strengthen regulation and complement federal law to stop the underground trade and protect these species from extinction.

"Humans can survive without ivory," said Dr. David Shepherdson, the zoo's deputy conservation manager. "Elephants can't. Through this legislation, Oregonians can tell the world that an elephant's life is more valuable than a trinket."