Ivory Expert Exposes Myth of Illegal U.S. Ivory Market – Rebukes FWS for Misrepresenting His Work

FWS referred to Dr. Stiles’ work numerous times in support of its proposed domestic ivory ban regulation. Dr. Stiles’ comment condemns elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade, but he emphasizes that restricting trade of decades-old legal ivory in the U.S. will have no effect on the illegal ivory trade in Asia, nor on elephant poaching in Africa. He points out that poaching is driven by East Asian speculators in raw ivory, not consumer demand.

Dr. Stiles states unequivocally that there is no demand for new poached raw ivory in the U.S. He says the importance of the U.S. as a destination for illegal ivory has been greatly exaggerated by the government and others promoting the ivory ban, all of whom have misrepresented his work. He traces the false claim that the U.S. is the second largest market for illegal ivory consumption in the world to a misrepresented U.S. ivory report he co-authored in 2008. That report included a table ranking the U.S. second behind China/Hong Kong based on the number of ivory items seen in retail outlets. However, nothing in that table or report indicated whether the items were legal or illegal.

The report also stated that “[t]he survey found 24,004 ivory items in the 657 outlets in the 16 towns and cities visited in the USA, most of which probably were legally for sale.” It further stated “relative to the size of the USA’s population and economy, little raw ivory enters the country legally or illegally (based on seizures). From this perspective, the U.S. ivory market does not appear a significant threat to elephant populations.”

Dr. Stiles goes on to debunk the following quote from FWS in the proposed regulation: “Stiles estimated, in his 2014 follow-up study, that as much as one half of the ivory for sale in two California cities during his survey had been imported illegally. All of this demonstrates the need to impose restrictions on commercializing elephant ivory within the United States.” However, he points out that his report said nothing about ivory being “imported illegally.” The Stiles report actually stated that “[t]here is a much higher incidence of what appears to be ivory of recent manufacture in California, roughly doubling from approximately 25% in 2006 to about half in 2014” and in his Conclusions, “the proportion of possibly illegal ivory has increased by 25% to half of all ivory in the two cities surveyed.” In his Comment, Stiles noted that ivory items manufactured in 2015 can be legal if it was made from a legal piece of raw ivory and that what matters is the date and manner of import, something he could not determine based on visual inspection of the ivory. Dr. Stiles’ also highlighted that the quantities of ivory and outlets seen selling ivory had declined substantially since 2006-07 when his first survey was carried out, indicating a likely corresponding drop in any illegal ivory entering the U.S.

Dr. Stiles acknowledges that despite the small demand for illegal ivory in the U.S., there is some ivory that enters the country illegally. However, Stiles argues that the law that existed prior to the change in regulation imposed in February 2014 is adequate to prosecute violators as shown by the cases highlighted in FWS’s proposed regulation.

Given the insignificant impact on elephant poaching a domestic trade ban would have, Dr. Stiles questions the propriety of FWS’s stated concern that the legal ivory market allows illegal ivory to be “laundered” in the United States. He asks why ivory is being singled out for this treatment, when much more serious “laundering” occurs in commodities like currency, designer clothes, DVD movies and other items that are freely traded in the U.S.

To take advantage of Dr. Stiles’ rebuke of the FWS and to support our efforts opposing this draconian and ill-advised rule that only serves to steal from honest Americans and which won’t save a single elephant in Africa, PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT TODAY at:!submitComment;D=FWS-HQ-IA-2013-0091-0415

Use this Model Comment in your submission (just copy and paste into the Comment field):

Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) Proposed Rule: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Rule; revisions to rule 4(d) for the African Elephant MUST BE WITHDRAWN. The proposed rule in its present form is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) (Pub. L. 79-404, 60 Stat. 237) and the Federal Data Quality Act (aka Information Quality Act) (“DQA”/”IQA”) (Pub. L. 106-554, § 515). The APA is violated, because the Service’s proposed rule is “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law” (5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A)). Specifically, the Service has not articulated a reasonable basis supported by reliable and accurate data for its decision to promulgate this rule. The DQA/IQA is violated, because the data upon which the Service has based its decision to promulgate this rule, is either entirely nonexistent or in the alternative, has been seriously misconstrued. One glaring example of serious misconstruction of data by the Service in justifying the promulgation of this rule, are the misreported findings of the studies conducted by Dr. Daniel Stiles, as noted in his comment submitted August 24, 2015 (See Stiles’s Comment, ID: FWS-HQ-IA-2013-0091-0415!documentDetail;D=FWS-HQ-IA-2013-0091-0415).