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DC law to address wildlife trafficking takes effect Oct. 1

As of Friday, Oct. 1 2021, the sale of ivory and rhino horn is banned in the District of Columbia. D.C. passed the law on April 27, 2020 to address the surging local market for goods that contribute to declines in endangered wildlife.


What the Law Says

Under the Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Trafficking Prohibition Act, sales of ivory and rhino horn are prohibited in the District, unless an item is a documented antique made from 20 percent of ivory or less. The law goes into effect this Friday, Oct. 1.


Why the Law Is Important

An estimated 100 elephants are killed every day due to the unfortunate demand for their ivory. Poaching and trafficking of wildlife products has put elephant and rhino populations - already under intense ecological pressure - in even more severe jeopardy. Multiple reputable sources have documented a flourishing ivory trade in the District:

  • In 2017, National Geographic profiled how the District was a “hub” for ivory sales. 
  • In 2019, an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States revealed the alarming extent of ivory sales throughout the District, including a full, carved elephant tusk priced at $600,000 and an ivory game board with multiple ivory figurines priced at $48,000.


How To Report Violations of the Law

If you see someone selling ivory, please report it to the DC Department of Energy and Environment.


A United Effort

A coalition of animal protection organizations advocated for the passage of this bill, including the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, ElephantsDC, DC Environmental Network, A Vegan Life, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Sierra Club DC, the Animal Welfare Institute, Humane Rescue Alliance, and DC Voters for Animals. 

Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) said: “I am heartened to finally see the success of this bill which sends the strong message that Washingtonians are taking a stand against the destructive ivory market. Ivory dealers will no longer be able to take advantage of the lack of local laws banning the sale of ivory, and our law will help reverse the devastating decline in wild elephant and rhino populations across the globe.”

Emily Hovermale, director of government relations for the Humane Rescue Alliance, said: “This historic law acknowledges the impact we have as consumers on global ecosystems and our duty to do what we can to prevent the possible loss of African elephants during our lifetime. Thank you to the champions and supporters of this important law that will help consumers make informed and humane decisions in the hopes of preserving some of the world’s most iconic species.”

Max Broad, president of DC Voters for Animals, said: “This is a momentous step in cutting off one of the region’s largest markets of ivory sales. Humans have hunted species to extinction many times before. It’s hard to imagine what the world would look like with entire species of elephants forever gone.”  

Kathryn Kullberg, director of Marine and Wildlife Protection for the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C., said: "Today is a great day for wildlife in our nation’s capital, because elephant ivory and rhino horn can no longer be sold in its commercial market. Ivory and rhino horn belong to these magnificent animals, not to be sold as trinkets or decorations.”

Danielle Kessler, US director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “The District of Columbia joins a growing list of state and local jurisdictions that are cracking down on illegal ivory trade happening within their borders, and we congratulate them for this effort. A 2021 report released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare highlighted a six-week investigation of online advertisements posted on 34 popular US-based online marketplaces. Nearly half (44%) of all listings advertised were identified as elephant ivory. These findings are a clear indication that the elephant ivory trade remains a significant challenge, and combating it requires implementing and enforcing strong laws and regulations in both the online and physical marketplaces.”


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