California closes elephant-sized loophole in ivory law

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A new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown closes a loophole that critics say had made the state’s previous regulations all-but-impossible to enforce.

The old law banned the sale or purchase of ivory that was imported after 1977. But it’s hard to determine how old ivory is, and animal rights activists say traders have been labeling new ivory as old, or even falsely claiming that the ivory came from Ice Age wooly mammoths.elephanttusks

The bill by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins eliminates the 1977 rule, banning the sale or purchase of virtually all ivory in the state. And it expands to include protections for rhinoceros. The law does include exceptions for musical instruments such as pianos and violin bows, as well as objects that are more than 100 years old and are less than 5 percent ivory.

The bill received strong support in the Legislature and was enthusiastically backed by animal welfare groups. It was opposed by gun groups, including the National Rifle Association. The new restrictions take effect next July.

Researchers believe that as many as 35,000 African elephants are being killed each year for their tusks. They warn that the species could be wiped in 100 years if poaching isn’t stopped.ivory

Along with New York, California is reportedly the biggest market for illegal ivory in the U.S,, with much of the buying and selling occurring in Chinatowns in L.A and San Francisco.

The federal government also recently tightened restrictions on ivory sales. In July, President Barack Obama announced new legal obstacles intended to thwart ivory sales in the U.S. All sales of new ivory are banned and items that are bought and sold between countries would have to meet stricter exemptions for antiques. The Obama Administration has also pledged to use intelligence services to track and arrest wildlife poachers in Africa.