Knesset rejects domestic Israeli ban on ivory trade

The Knesset plenum rejected a bill on Wednesday that proposed a nationwide ban on the domestic trade of ivory products.

June 28, 2017 17:40
3 minute read.
A new-born Asian elephant

Elephant. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Knesset plenum rejected a bill on Wednesday that proposed a ban on the domestic trade of ivory products.

The legislation, proposed by Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran, aimed to prohibit Israelis from engaging in the trade of products containing ivory extracted from elephants or mammoths – the latter of which have long been extinct. Only people with special permission from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority would have been able to continue trading an ivory product, according to the bill.

“One hundred elephants are murdered every day for ivory – one elephant every 15 minutes,” Cohen Paran said at the plenary session.

Nonetheless, 29 Knesset members voted against the bill and 21 in favor.

“The bill does not add to the existing Wildlife Protection Law,” said Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver.

“There is no need for another law that will create ambiguity.”

Israel’s Wildlife Protection Law (1955) restricts the hunting of wild animals and prohibits the trade, possession or transport of protected species without a permit.

The global trade of ivory was essentially banned in 1989 as a result of an update to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. Nonetheless, the domestic trade of ivory in some form remains legal in most countries.

CITES is an international agreement among governments that aimed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild plants and animals would not threaten their survival. Representatives of 80 countries agreed upon the CITES text in 1973, enabling the convention to come into force internationally in 1975. Israel ratified CITES in 1979 and began enforcing its measures in 1980.

In 1989, CITES updated the convention’s most endangered “Appendix I” to include African elephants – where Asian elephants had been listed since 1975 – effectively prohibiting the international commercial trade of elephants, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS.

Yet in 1997, after these elephant populations began to recover, they were transferred back to “Appendix II” status, with strict limitations on ivory trade. The prohibitions apply only to international trade and only to ivory acquired after elephants were listed under CITES.

In July 2016, a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory took effect in the United States, as a revision to the country’s Endangered Species Act made by the FWS. The rule prohibits the import and export of African elephant ivory, with limited exceptions for musical instruments, items in a traveling exhibition, inherited objects, items that are part of a household move and ivory for law enforcement or genuine scientific purposes.

France introduced a ban on the sales of all products made from elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns in August 2016, aside from some exemptions. At the end of December, China also announced it would enact a ban on all domestic ivory processing and trade by the end of 2017.

The goal of Cohen Paran’s legislation was to prevent ivory sales “in order to stop the killing of elephants for the purpose of producing ivory from them, and as part of the global effort to prevent ivory trade and the killing of elephants,” according to the bill’s explanatory notes.

Describing the situation of the global elephant population as an “existential crisis,” the notes say at least 30,000 elephants are killed each year with one goal – “to take their ivory and turn it into various kinds of jewelry, figurines and other decorative objects, by killing the animals with axes, knives, automatic weapons and helicopter fire.”

“The indefatigable passion for ivory is also reflected in Israel, where there is also trade in ivory as in China and other Asian countries,” the notes say. “Behind each of these products offered for sale, there is a dead elephant.”

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