Doutzen Kroes

The World Conservation Congress has adopted a motion that calls on all countries to close their legal domestic markets for elephant ivory, which is used in products such as jewelry.

The motion, passed on Saturday at the WCC meeting in Honolulu, urges the governments of countries with domestic ivory markets to take all necessary legislative and regulatory efforts to close them. It also calls on members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources to “send an unambiguous message that elephants are protected globally and that in the face of extensive poaching, buying elephant ivory is harmful and unacceptable.

The Natural Resource Defense Council said legal ivory markets — like the major ones in countries like China, the U.S. and Japan — hide thriving illegal markets that perpetuate elephant poaching. This is largely because it’s difficult to determine ivory age, as well as whether an ivory item is from elephants or some other species like the extinct mammoth.

The Obama Administration in June set final regulations to restrict the commercial trade of elephant ivory in the U.S. Combined with the other actions the administration has taken over the last three years, this amounts to a near-total ban on our country’s commercial ivory trade.

The regulations restrict ivory exports and the interstate trade of ivory, although the NRDC said the regulations could be stronger, since they still allow hunters to import two elephant trophies into the U.S. per year, down from an unlimited number.

More than 144,000 savanna elephants were killed for their tusks between 2007 and 2014, and scientists estimate that African forest elephants could go extinct within a decade.

“The magnitude of the slaughter of these majestic animals for their tusks is not only unprecedented, it’s inextricably leading African elephants toward extinction,” said Andrew Wetzler, deputy chief program officer at the NRDC. “We need to close all ivory markets now to ensure their survival. Today’s vote by IUCN members is the first time that a major international body has called on every country in the world to close its legal markets for elephant ivory. It’s truly a landmark moment, and a victory for elephants that will hopefully be repeated later this month at the next meeting of [the] Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Johannesburg.”

A new campaign to save African elephants hunted for ivory called #KnotOnMyPlanet launched last week with the backing of many in the fashion world, including campaign ambassador Doutzen Kroes, as well as Tiffany & Co. and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.