More than a thousand rhinos and tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year to feed demand for ivory and rhino horn. The international trade in elephants, rhinos, and other species is the second-largest threat to wildlife after habitat loss. If the market continues to drive poaching, both rhinos and elephants could vanish from the wild as early as 2034.
NRDC works in the United States and abroad to shield these two species from the threat of extinction. We address both the supply and demand side of the wildlife trade. Though raw ivory comes predominantly from Africa, many items made from them are crafted in East Asia and, in particular, China. We support the Chinese government in its efforts to enact practical, enforceable laws that will reduce the amount of these materials in the marketplace. We meet with Chinese academics, legislators, NGOs, and agencies, and we submit comments and recommendations to the national government.
As countries like South Africa and Namibia push for the legalization of the international rhino horn trade, which the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, banned in 1977, we joined scientists at Duke, Oxford, and Beijing Normal universities to examine what such an action would mean in China. We found that the demand is so great, it cannot be satisfied by creating rhino “farms.”
The United States has a role to play as well, as it's one of the largest consumers of ivory. Our advocates helped pass laws in New York and New Jersey banning almost all ivory, mammoth, and rhino horn transactions and strengthening penalties for wildlife traffickers. We are also pushing for firmer laws in California, where a report commissioned by NRDC shows that up to 90 percent of the ivory for sale in Los Angeles is likely illegal under state law.
We are also working to strengthen federal laws. President Obama announced regulations that would almost completely ban on ivory imports and exports and greatly restrict interstate trade in ivory. Yet the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress are trying to weaken this effort. We are pushing back and encouraging the public to call for strong protections for elephants and rhinos.