Ivory and Rhino Horn Trade Loopholes Closed in California

AB 96 passed the Senate floor on a 26 - 13 vote and removes California’s exemption for ivory and rhino horn imported prior to January 1, 1977. Image © Annamiticus
AB 96 passed the Senate floor on a 26 – 13 vote and removes California’s exemption for ivory and rhino horn imported prior to January 1, 1977. Image © Annamiticus

Legislation prohibiting the sale of ivory and rhino horn in California is now stronger, thanks to the passage of AB 96, which closes pre-ban loopholes.

AB 96 passed the Senate floor on a 26 – 13 vote and removes California’s exemption for ivory and rhino horn imported prior to January 1, 1977. The bill will “prohibit a person from purchasing, selling, offering for sale, possessing with intent to sell or importing with intent to sell elephant ivory or rhinoceros horn”.

“Ninety-six elephants are killed every day for their ivory — translating to 35,000 deaths each year,” said Speaker Toni G. Atkins.

“This species loss is unsustainable and African elephants are being poached at a higher rate than they are being born, which will result in their extinction. By passing AB 96, the Legislature can help strengthen enforcement against the illegal ivory trade in California, which will, in turn, help put an end to poaching.”

Principal co-author Senator Ricardo Lara explained that AB 96 brings California “one step closer to taking decisive action to prevent the harmful and illegal act of poaching to protect conservation efforts and help protect these delicate creatures”.

Trade would only be allowed under “very limited educational and scientific circumstances” or if it meets strict criteria regarding the volume of ivory or is a bona fide antique.

AB 96 caused a predictable uproar among followers of the National Rifle Association, whose lobbying group stated that the “extremely radical” bill is “effectively a taking of property without compensation” and would harm “firearm owners, sportsmen, hunters, recreational shooters and gun collectors” who have legally purchased firearms decorated with ivory.


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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.