The race is on: In 2015, over 10 states introduced legislative bills to ban ivory in their states. But only one was passed into law. So what happened to the others? Well, find out, and see if your state has joined the international fight to become #ivoryfree.
Arkansas introduced its anti-ivory bill on March 9, 2015, according to the Elephant Protection Association. It prohibits the sale, purchase or possession, import and offer with the intent to sell of elephant ivory and rhino horn. The bill was read twice in the senate and was assigned to the Judiciary committee, where it died when the committee adjourned sine die, without assigning a time to reconvene.
While Connecticut sounds like it's had a history of ivory within its borders, the state's legislature has made little progress in addressing it. Different legislators have gotten involved in proposing ivory legislation (four bills were introduced last January), but none made it very far.
However, this year House Bill 5788 was introduced, and is scheduled for a public hearing this Friday. Supporters expect resistance among groups like antique dealers and gun-rights activists. Among proponents is the National Association of Music Merchants (commonly called NAMM), who last year sent a detailed letter to the legislature asking for reforms that would protect their antique instruments, including the exemption of mammoth ivory and the allowance for antique instruments that contain less than 20 percent of ivory.
It will be interesting to see how Connecticut residents feel about an ivory ban, and whether it will become the fifth ivory free state.
"I think it's kind of selfish for us to think that we need ivory. Honestly, we don't need it...It's not going to affect our lives in any way if we don't have it."
Delware has had more success with getting anti-ivory supporters in the legislature. The proposed ivory ban, Senate Bill 156, was first introduced in June of last year under the title SB1, but has since made progress. The bill first went to the Banking and Business committee, where it sat for a while. It was then reintroduced as SB 156 and was reported out of the committee with two favorable votes, despite the resistance of the NRA.
The bill has gained six co-sponsors from the House of Representatives and two from the Senate. Additionally, a petition was written by a Delaware resident to encourage the bill's passing, and has gained over 760 supporters. While the bill still has a ways to go before constituents vote yea or nay, I'm hopeful to see a new anti-ivory state!
Florida's legislative fight for ivory legislation lived only a few months. From January to April 2015 Senate Bill 1120 was filed and then sent to the Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee, where it died. Interestingly enough, the bill was introduced by Sen. Thad Altman (R), who serves in that committee. However, even though a Republican introduced the bill, it's been mostly unpopular among conservatives, which may explain its failure.
So far in the 2016 session, the bill has not been re-introduced, although a Texas resident has created an online petition to ban ivory in Florida, raising over 82,000 signatures.
“If you want to stop killing elephants you’ve got to stop the market for elephant parts.”
Hawaii represents one of the greatest U.S. markets for illegal ivory, which isn't too surprising, given its closer proximity to China. Because of this, activists and conservationists have targeted and begun lobbying state legislatures to pass an ivory bill. Recently both the state Senate and the House proposed legislation prohibiting the possession and sale of ivory,
The Senate bill has been through three hearings and a handful of amendments. It's now gone back to the Judiciary committee, This bill prohibits a wide variety of wildlife trade, from great apes to sharks and rays to monk seals to elephants and rhinos. Exemptions are antiques, guns and knives, musical instruments, inherited items and items for educational or scientific use, assuming that the items were legally obtained and have proper documentation.
The House bill has had equal success. It's gone through the regular process and has already been sent to the Senate for approval. Like SB 2647, House Bill 2502 prohibits a wide range of wildlife trafficking, protecting many animals from poaching. The same exemptions apply, although slightly different laws are applied to determine what is legal and illegal.
Illinois' ivory bill was introduced in late February 2015, It protects elephant, walrus, hippopotamus, narwhal and whale ivory and ivory products, as well as rhino horn and horn products. The bill is pretty standard in prohibiting the sale, purchase and possession with the intent to sell the ivory, although it includes an amendment to protect antique guns and knives, as well as musical instruments.
As the bill went through the legislative process, it gained three co-sponsors and was presented with three amendments. The Environment and Conservation committee, which handled the bill, voted 2-10 in favor of the bill, and it was scheduled for a reading on May 31. However, no action was taken between May and October, when the bill and its last two amendments were sent to Assignments, pursuant to Senate Rule 3-9(b).
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.