Wildlife advocates push for ivory trade ban in Hawaii

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Wildlife advocates are looking to keep illegal ivory trade out of Hawaii.

According to a recent study, the United States is the second-largest market for ivory behind Asia, and Hawaii is the third-largest state behind New York and California.

The report is the product of a recent “snapshot” investigation of online retailers in Hawaii. In just six days, investigators were able to find more than 1,800 ads for ivory jewelry, and more than 4,600 items for sale, all worth more than $1.2 million.

The overwhelming majority of products were advertised as elephant ivory and could have been illegal, as they lacked evidence proving that the tusks and carvings had been imported in accordance with federal law, the report said.

A panel discussion was held Thursday to address the issue.

Jeff Flocken, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said the state remains a hub for ivory trade “due in part to Hawaii’s position as a major Asia-Pacific center of commerce and tourism with dozens of flights and ships entering its ports daily, from Asia and the Pacific.”

“There’s a bill that’s been introduced and a ban on the sale of endangered species products. These are parts of animals that are endangered, and there are Hawaiian animals that have been included in this ban,” said Kristin Bauer van Straten, an actress and IFAW ambassador. “I’ve been to Africa. I always cry at this part. It’s terrible. It’s such a special place, Hawaii is such a special place, so these two cultures understand how important the natural world is.”

Two bills currently under review in the state Legislature, House Bill 2502 and Senate Bill 2647, would prohibit the trafficking and sale of protected animal species with limited exceptions:

Federal law regulates the transfer or importation of parts or products made from endangered animal species, but because of increasing demand for these products around the world, state authority needs to be aligned with federal and international laws to appropriately regulate these markets on a local level.

Similar ivory ban bills have been introduced before, but none have passed.

Just last year, officials made an ivory bust in Honolulu, where agents seized hundreds of bone, coral, and ivory carvings.

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