The headlines these days are full of troubling news, which is endemic in the animal protection community in general. But there are rays of hope, including two recent pieces of good news that show that efforts to combat poachers and curtail demand are making progress.
Crackdown in Tanzania
In Tanzania, an infamous elephant poacher and and his two brothers were sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to the BBC. Boniface Matthew Maliango — nicknamed “The Devil” — and his two brothers were arrested in Dar es Salaam in 2015 while attempting to smuggle tusks worth more than $850,000. Maliango, whose grisly poaching operation was the subject of the Netflix documentary “The Ivory Game,” which was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Progress in the U.S.
Meanwhile, state wildlife officials in Los Angeles County have started to enforce the state law that essentially bans the sale of ivory in California after giving merchants a six-month grace period, according to the Los Angeles Times. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials seized hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal products from stores in Beverly Hills and the LA area — ivory-laden combs, brushes and knives to sculptures. Shop owners face jail time and fines ranging from $1,000 to $40,000 depending on the number of items sold, if local district attorney’s decide to file charges.
We can expect to see more crackdowns given the amount of ivory that is no doubt still available for purchase in the state. A 2015 report from the National Resources Defense Council estimated that 90 percent of the ivory sold in the LA-area stores and 80 percent sold in San Francisco was being sold in violation of state law in effect at that time.
Assembly Bill 96 was designed to close the loophole that enabled merchants to claim that products they were selling were acquired before a 1977 ban on ivory sales. Not only is it easy to “age” ivory using tea staining and other techniques, but enforcement of the law was lax. The new law in California, along with bans on ivory sales in Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Washington, a federal ban and China’s decision to ban ivory trade by the end of this year are all big wins for elephants.