Here in the United States, we don’t usually think about the downstream impact of the products we buy. We have the luxury of never having to know how the ivory keys on our piano were made or what needed to happen for the gorgeous ivory statute to find itself in our living rooms. It is a luxury because by not knowing where these things came from, we don’t need to think about the fact that an African elephant is killed for their tusks every 15 minutes.

Between 2010 and 2012, over 100,000 African elephants were poached for their ivory. While this was a notable spike in elephant deaths, it is part of a larger trend that is quickly leading to the extinction of the African elephant population. If we continue at this pace, it is likely that the African forest elephant will be extinct by the end of the decade.

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A new study release by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), entitled, “Elephant Ivory Trafficking in California,” has tied the sale of ivory in California to this troubling rise in elephant poaching. After China, the U.S. is the second largest market for illegal ivory in the world.

According to report author and ivory expert, Daniel Stiles, “the proportion of likely illegal ivory in California has roughly doubled – from approximately 25 percent in 2006 to about 50 percent in 2014 – since his last survey just eight years ago.”

A shocking 80 percent of ivory sold in San Francisco and 90 percent of ivory in Los Angeles has been estimated to be illegal ivory under California law. The sale, possession and import of any elephant part is deemed illegal in California, however, if the ivory was imported before 1977, then it is technically legal to sell it within the state’s bounds. Ivory dealers have been known to falsify documentation and advertise ivory as “antique” to pass it off as being older than it really is.

When someone purchases an ivory product, they are directly linked to the slaughter of an elephant across the world. This industry is ruthless and will be allowed to prevail without penalty if the buying continues.

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Luckily, California State Assembly by Speaker Toni Atkins and principal co-author Senator Ricardo Lara, have just introduced a bill (AB 96) that seeks to close that loophole and proposes a near-total ban on ivory in California. New York recently passed a similar ban on ivory and if California were to do the same it would cut off major trade routes that make illegal ivory a profitable trade.

Given the role that California plays in fueling the death of endangered elephants, it is critical that this bill passes!

Image source: Denyes De Beer/Flickr

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