Poaching elephants for the illegal collection and sale of ivory continues to be a huge problem globally. Last year, the US. Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed nearly six tons of illegal ivory it obtained through custom seizures and criminal investigations. Currently, the US ranks second only to China in the amount of illegal ivory imported. More than 20,000 elephants were killed across the African continent last year alone, with the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda accounting for around 80 percent of all continental ivory seizures.
The US government is continuing to take steps to combat the ivory trade industry. Last year, the Obama administration announced its National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which included the ban of commercially traded elephant ivory and the domestic sale of all non-antique ivory. In April of this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced a suspension on the import of “sport-hunted African elephant trophies” coming in from Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
A press release said,
“Questionable management practices, a lack of effective law enforcement, and weak governance have resulted in uncontrolled poaching and catastrophic population declines of African elephants in Tanzania. In Zimbabwe [there has been] a significant decline in the elephant population. Anecdotal evidence, such as the widely publicized poisoning last year of 300 elephants in Hwange National Park, suggests that Zimbabwe’s elephants are also under siege.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA), however, doesn’t see these steps as measures necessary to save the African elephant population from complete extinction; it sees them as an attack on personal freedoms, including the freedom to shoot an endangered species.
Regarding the ban on selling non-antique ivory, the NRA — not once mentioning the damage to the elephant population — called upon its members to contact the White House, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and their US Representative to express their opposition. The NRA called the ban “another attempt by this anti-gun administration to ban firearms.”
The NRA later released an update on their efforts, announcing that Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had introduced the Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014. The NRA said the bill, which served as a response to the government’s “overreach of authority,” would “protect firearm owners and sportsmen from a federal ban on the sale and trade of objects containing the trade of objects containing lawfully-imported elephant ivory.”
Only briefly and at the end of the update was a mention of the protection of the rights of Americans to hunt elephants in Africa.
“Your actions today may determine if the sale and trade of firearms that contain ivory, as well as the importation of sport-hunted elephants, will be banned.”
If the government completely bans the import of all sport-trophies, the banning of Americans buying elephant-hunting permits from African countries would logically follow at some point. Most Americans actually support the banning of ivory if such a ban means it would further protect the elephant population.