As we move through the alphabet of ivory bills, I'd like to point out a significant, if not obvious, detail: each state is different. While all ivory bills seek to stop the killing of elephants and rhinos in Africa and Asia, each state has proposed a law that best fits its situation.
Some bills seek to protect more species than just elephants, stretching to include marine animals as well. These states are mostly on the coast, and therefore have that concern. Others, like Indiana, simply seek to take preventative measures so that ivory does not become a rampant trade, and to keep their state from becoming a gateway for ivory to pass through.
So as you look through each bill, think about what makes them different, and why each is important for the survival of keystone species. If we can get the buying to stop, the killing will too.
Indiana's battle against ivory is fascinating, because it directly involved college students at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). By working with Elephants DC and Ivory Free Indiana, students at Indiana University were able to get this bill written and introduced in the House (House Bill 1051). While the bill is currently stalled, I'm hoping to receive word soon on its progress.
SF 30 was introduced in Iowa's senate in January 2015. It was assigned to a subcommittee and then reassigned in February, but no other actions were taken in 2015 to get it passed. However, both the Iowa Firearms Coalition and the National Shooting Sports Foundation lobbied against the bill, seemingly with success.
The bill classified the sale of ivory and rhino horn as a Class D felony. Exceptions include antiques that date over 100 years old and contain less than 20 percent of ivory; musical instruments manufactured before 1975; antiques that are inherited through a trust or will; and ivory that is used for scientific or educational purposes. The proposed sentence for ivory sales is a bit higher than in other states, but not by much: a fine of between $750-$7,000 and no more than five years in prison.
"We need to be responsible and do the right thing. We need to stand in the global movement."
Maryland has a bill in both the House and the Senate, which look a lot alike. Both ban the trade and possession of "covered animal species", which includes a number of species like elephants and mammoths, leopards, sea turtles and bonobo.
The Senate Bill, 991, was sponsored by Sen. Ronald Young (D), but the bill has currently been stalled. It was introduced in February and then scheduled for a hearing in the committee of education, health and environmental affairs, but the hearing was cancelled. There's no word on its progress since then.
House Bill 542, SB991's counterpart, made it to a hearing with the committee on environment and transportation, but no word has been released since then.
Massachusetts bill, House Bill 1275, made it into the Senate in 2015. It was joined by Senate Bill 440, and in October and November both bills were scheduled for a hearing by a joint committee, made up of both representatives and senators.
The main distinction between the two bills is the introduction. SB 440 gets right to the point of defining ivory and what would be prohibited in the future. HB 1275, on the other hand, spends time detailing the direct connection between the ivory trade and organized crime and terrorism. It makes the argument that the best way to kill two birds with one stone (stop both activities) is to ban ivory statewide.
Like both Maryland and Massachusetts, Michigan currently has two ivory bills pending a ruling, one in the House (HB 4509) and one in the Senate (SB 371). While both made it past the first hearing, neither have received a vote from their assigned committees. Both are stuck in their committee of natural resources, and have been sitting there for months.
SB 371 protects both elephants and rhinos, and includes your standard exemptions (antiques, musical instruments, educational or scientific ivory, etc.) It classifies the violation of this law as a misdemeanor punishable by a small fine or jail time. The House bill is almost identical.
When I started this post, Nevada was not on my radar. I have since learned that the state proposed Senate Bill 398 in March of 2015. This bill has gained a lot of support within the Democratic party, with four primary senators and eight co-sponsors supporting the bill. One Republican, Sen. James A. Settelmeyer, is also co-sponsoring it.
The bill, which includes the typical protections against killing elephants and rhinos, also offers exemptions for antiques and musical instruments (with documentation) but not guns, unless they could be considered antiques. 398 made it through the first meeting but was stalled in the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy. No action has since been taken.
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.