Cheh: DC shouldn’t be sanctuary for profits of animal slaughter

July 23, 2019

A full carved elephant tusk for sale is valued at $600,000, according to the Humane Society of the United States. (Courtesy Humane Society of the United States)

Lack of local laws banning the sale of ivory have resulted in the District of Columbia becoming one of the nation’s top five markets for products made of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns.

The Humane Society of the United States Tuesday released its findings of an undercover investigation, from April through June, which found five vendors in the nation’s capital, selling ivory, without being able to document the age or origin of the product

The animal protection advocacy group’s Anna Frostic said they “have passed our findings on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so that they may investigate any violations of federal law.”

D.C. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has reintroduced a bill that would prohibit the import, sale, offer for sale, purchase, barter or possession with intent to sell ivory and rhino horn products.

“It turns out that because D.C. doesn’t have any laws regulating this industry, the market has moved here,” said Cheh. “It’s an opportunistic market, and it doesn’t reflect the values of our residents, but it’s here.”

Cheh said she is certain residents “would be distressed to learn that that the District has been named as ‘the new hub for ivory sales in the United States,’ by National Geographic, and would be shocked by the volume of ivory found moving through the District, as discovered by the Humane Society’s investigation.”

“The District of Columbia should not be the sanctuary for profits of animal slaughter,” Cheh said.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the Council “must act to pass legislation that will protect imperiled elephants and rhinos by removing the financial incentives to kill them and trade in their parts.”

In a news conference, Cheh said she had introduced similar legislation in 2015 and 2017, before the 2019 bill she submitted in January, but said she felt “movement” toward passage.

“We must not sit passively while the ivory market thrives in the District,” she said.

In July 2016, a near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect in the U.S.

According to Cheh, 96 elephants are illegally poached daily.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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