Raise Your Voice to Make D.C. Ivory Free

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(photo by Jason Blade via flickr)

At a time when elephants are being killed faster than they’re being born, it’s vital that ordinary citizens step up and do their part to make a difference wherever and however possible. Here at Elephants DC, we believe it’s important to “be the change” we want to see, and that starts in our own community.

That’s why, in June, a group of Elephants DC volunteers and DC residents went to the Council of the District of Columbia to encourage the Committee on the Judiciary to hold a hearing for Elephant Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Trafficking Prohibition Act of 2015 (B21-0251).

The measure, which would end the District’s role in the brutal ivory trade by restricting ivory and rhino horn sales, has been sitting in committee for more than one year. Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced it on June 16, 2015, and yet it still has not come up for a vote.

It’s time for that to change, because elephants don’t have a lot of time left.

We visited the offices of all five councilmembers on the committee — Kenyan McDuffie, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, LaRuby May, and Anita Bonds — as well as the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser to hand-deliver a memo.

We spoke to the councilmembers’ staff about why the measure — which prohibits the import, sale, purchase, barter, or possession with intent to sell ivory and rhinoceros horns in DC (with limited exceptions) — should be scheduled for a hearing. We also called for the District’s leadership to help raise raise awareness that elephants and rhinos face impending extinction and that the trade in their body parts is the root cause of this crisis, coupled with vanity and greed.

Elephants DC is grateful we had the opportunity to thank Councilmember Cheh in person for introducing this important measure. Cheh is known for being one of the strongest voices for endangered and vulnerable animals in the District.

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Elephants DC volunteers meet with Councilmember Mary Cheh (center) in June 2016 to thank her for introducing legislation to ban ivory sales in the District.

Elephants DC believes that achieving a universal ban on the sale of ivory starts right here in the nation’s capital.  There is no excuse for ivory trade, period. Right now there are no regulations at all for those who buy or sell elephant ivory and rhino horn in Washington D.C. That means illegal ivory is openly being sold on the marketplace under the guise of “legality.” With an estimated 35,000 elephants poached annually in Africa, often by terrorist organizations, that is simply unacceptable.

As U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe recently said, “We value living elephants in the wild more than we value the creation and the trade of trinkets made from ivory.”

The Council’s action on this critical issue would place the District as a leader alongside states such as New Jersey, New York, California, Washington, and Hawaii, who have passed legislation aimed at banning or significantly restricting ivory sales in their domestic markets. These laws are important supplements to the recent federal regulations governing interstate and foreign ivory trade into and out of the United States.

More importantly, this measure benefits DC’s citizens, who care about eliminating ties to criminal networks that traffic in wildlife parts, weapons, drugs, and humans. DC’s citizens care about the environment, and don’t want their children to have to watch elephants and rhinos go extinct. The Council should support its citizens by holding a hearing on the ivory and rhino horn sales ban as soon as possible.

How You Can Help

Without a doubt, citizens of the District of Columbia support saving elephants and keeping DC free of any role in elephant extinction, which is being directly perpetuated through the ivory trade.

We  — and the elephants — need your support in getting that message across to the Council!

If you live in the District of Columbia, here are some ways you can help get B21-0251 heard at the Council of the District of Columbia’s next Committee on the Judiciary hearing:

  • Sign and share our online petition.
  • Write — or even better, call —  your respective councilmembers and Councilmember McDuffie, chair of the Judiciary Committee, to ask for their support in getting B21-0251 heard at committee. (Click here to find out who represents your ward, and find their contact info and a sample letter you can use here).
  • Join the #IvoryFreeDC team on July 10th in Dupont Circle to learn about our advocacy efforts and get involved. We’re all volunteers, and all are welcome!
  • Be sure to Tweet your support featuring the hashtag: #ivoryfreeDC. Together, we can make a difference!

Citizens, take action! Let’s raise our voices for elephants!

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Elephants DC extends special thanks to writer Stephanie Bento for her work on this article.
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