Editor’s Note: This blog post was written by Enough Project Intern Amanda Schmitt.
On Sunday October 4, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB96 into law, banning the sale of ivory in the state. Named for the daily average of 96 African elephants killed in 2012 for the ivory trade, the bill previously passed in the California State Assembly (62-14) and State Senate (26-13), and thereafter was signed into action by Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday, October 4, 2015. The Enough Project joins the Wildlife Conservation Society and the 96 Elephants campaign in praising Governor Jerry Brown for signing the legislation and making a significant contribution to combating the illicit ivory trade. The Enough Project and 96 Elephants campaign have been strong supporters of the legislation throughout the deliberation process, sending letters of support for AB96 to both the state legislature and Governor Brown.
The connection between ivory trafficking and violent rebel groups is clear. The killing of Africa's elephants for the illegal trade of ivory is one source of funding for rebel groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), responsible for mass atrocities against civilians and contributing to the destabilization of the entire region. The Enough Project’s 2013 report on LRA elephant poaching demonstrates the extensiveness of the danger the industry enables. As Enough Project Associate Director of Policy Sasha Lezhnev recently noted in testimony at a hearing on Capitol Hill, certain areas of significant elephant habitats in east and central Africa, such as Garamba National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, are at risk of elephant extinction if local armed groups and illegal poachers are not stopped.
The former ivory law, instituted in 1977, designated ivory sales as illegal in California, yet made an exception for ivory imported before the year of implementation. The new legislation enjoyed bipartisan support to close this loophole. As of July 1, 2016, the new law will prevent the sale of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns in California with only minor exceptions, instituting up to thousands of dollars in fines for non-compliance.
By eliminating California’s facilitation of this trade, AB 96 closes a major ivory market and limits demand. The Enough Project hopes that California’s new, comprehensive ivory ban can serve as a model for other legislation at the state and federal level, such the ivory trade restrictions proposed by President Obama in July 2015.