Commercial imports of elephant ivory have been banned by federal and international law for decades. But now wildlife activists are pressing West Coast states to pass their own laws to deter the poaching of elephants and rhinos.
Initiative 1401, bankrolled by billionaire Paul Allen, will be considered by Washington state voters next month. A ballot measure in Oregon that would criminalize trafficking in endangered wildlife is also in the works. And a new law in California bans all ivory trade.
The wildlife-rich forests and savannas of Africa may seem a world away, but animal contraband does pass through the Northwest. Last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service busted an antique dealer who attempted to smuggle rhino horns from the U.S. to suburban Vancouver, Canada, through an address in Point Roberts, Washington. The arrest came as part of a sting dubbed “Operation Crash.”
USFWS supervisory wildlife inspector John Goldman recalled one seizure of ivory jewelry in Portland in the last three years. The Seattle/Tacoma seaport and airport and Washington and Idaho’s northern border with Canada combined averaged about three to four interceptions per year of elephant ivory jewelry or carvings or an improperly imported, sport-hunted elephant trophy.