After writing about the importance of an ivory discussion among Kentucky's legislators, I decided to introduce the topic to a few state representatives and senators. So I send out an email, targeting my personal district legislators but also those that serve on committees that could be (and should be) considering this topic in future months.
Below is one version of the message I wrote, addressing not only the importance of ivory legislation in Kentucky, but also the arguments of proponents and how our commonwealth can work to create a beneficial situation for all residents:
I am a Kentucky resident and I believe that Kentucky needs to begin a discussion about a statewide ivory ban. Elephants and rhinos are disappearing at shocking rates in Africa and Asia, and the U.S. is largely to blame as the second-largest consumer of ivory products in the world. While the federal government has taken steps to help protect these keystone species, there are several loopholes that state laws can fill by passing individual ivory bans.
Currently the City of Louisville serves as a national port of documentation for items containing ivory, helping to track the movement of legal ivory products in and out of the country. However, at least one arrest for the possession of illegal ivory has been made in Kentucky within the past five years, suggesting that illegal ivory could be traveling through our state from Africa or Asia, on its way to larger market.
In light of this global crisis, over 20 states have introduced anti-ivory bills in their legislature, including Ohio and Indiana, and four more states have signed these bills into law. I believe Kentucky needs to stand with our national and international neighbors and pass a statewide ban on ivory trade.
While many proponents to ivory bans claim that anti-ivory laws threaten musicians, gun owners and antique dealers, this is not true. Many states have passed laws that provide an exemption to those that possess items that are over 100 years and contain less than 20 percent of ivory, and I can confidently say that the purpose of passing ivory legislation is not to hurt legal trades but to protect against an illegal trade that is known to fund terrorism and genocide. Ivory laws are for protection, not only for elephants and rhinos but also for humans and other species that depend on these keystone species for survival.
As a state representative, I encourage you to begin a conversation about illegal ivory in the House, and to introduce a bill banning the sale and trade of ivory and other wildlife products in Kentucky. If convenient, I would also like to sit down and discuss this topic with you, because the future of elephants and rhinos rests in our hands, and I believe Kentucky needs to stand with other states in the U.S. and across the globe to fight the illegal ivory trade.
Thank you for your time and your service. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Kerry Skiff is a conservation advocate and recent journalism graduate of Northern Kentucky University. She follows the ivory trade around the world, and uses her voice to educate Americans about their role in animal conservation.