Animal Law Review

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Rampant poaching has put African elephants on the verge of extinction in the wild, and the United States (U.S.) is complicit in this crisis. Despite the best efforts of federal agencies, porous national borders, legal loopholes, and deep-seated difficulties in law enforcement make the U.S. a major market for illicit ivory. While the White House, the United Nations, and the European Union, along with other voices, are sounding alarms, bold and concrete actions have been slow in coming. The U.S., in particular, is only beginning to acknowledge its own role in the slaughter, and still relies on a patchwork of inadequate laws and regulations to control its domestic ivory trade. The U.S. must quickly put a halt to its domestic ivory trade by adequately funding customs and wildlife inspectors and addressing the problem at every step along the chain of destruction—from the poachers and militants on the ground in Africa, to the international criminal syndicates underwriting the logistics of trafficking, to the consumers whose demand drives the crisis to ever-greater depths. This Article, analyzing never-before released data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shines a light on the scope and scale of the underground trade in the U.S., unpacks the problems facing regulators and enforcement officials, and builds the case for a total ban on the commercial ivory trade, which threatens the existence of one of the planet’s greatest icons.

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