Court of Appeals Confirms Legality of California Ivory Ban

In a welcome victory this week, the California Court of Appeals upheld California’s ivory ban.

In a welcome victory this week, the California Court of Appeals upheld California’s ivory ban.

As background, NRDC helped pass legislation in 2015 (now California Fish and Game Code section 2022) making it illegal to sell, offer for sale, possess with intent to sell, and import with intent to sell elephant ivory in California. It also increased penalties to up to $50,000 or twice the value of the goods, whichever is greater, and/or one year in prison.

However, the Ivory Education Institute (IEI)—which is headed up by a bigtime ivory collector—didn’t like the law and sued the State of California in 2016 claiming the law was unconstitutional. NRDC and other groups intervened on behalf of the State of California to defend the law and, fortunately, the Los Angeles Superior Court upheld the ban. But in 2017, IEI appealed the lower court’s ruling to the California Court of Appeals.

Fortunately, the court has once again upheld the law, which in its short existence has already enabled the State of California to tackle its once flourishing ivory market, which was estimated to be one of our country’s largest. For example, in September 2017, California filed criminal charges against three ivory sellers for the first time under the ivory ban law, at least one of whom was convicted in April and sentenced to 10 days in prison and a $5,000 fine, among other penalties. San Francisco has been hard at work too, charging the owner and corporate parent of Lovell’s Gallery with illegal possession of ivory in 2017. And the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has commenced several other investigations of businesses suspected to be selling ivory and rhino horn that will hopefully bear fruit. These actions never would have taken place were it not for this law.

Hopefully the State of California will continue to vigorously prosecute cases under its ivory ban law, as elephants could surely use the help. While the latest CITES status report showed that poaching is continuing to decline, elephant populations continue to decline due to poaching and other factors and global illegal ivory transactions remain as high as in the previous 6 years.

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