There are two obvious strategies to fight poaching. The first is to fight poaching. That is, target the bad guys, those illegally killing elephants and selling illicit ivory. Enhance the ability of African governments to protect wildlife, increase the benefits of protecting elephants to local residents, break up smuggling operations, and target dealers in poached ivory. The U.S. government long used this strategy.
The second approach is to play politics. That is, penalize the good guys, those trading in legal older ivory. Doing so wouldn’t protect any elephants. It wouldn’t prevent additional illicit ivory smuggling. It wouldn’t stop people from buying items made from illicit ivory. But it would drive up enforcement statistics and punish ivory owners.
Unfortunately, the administration has decided to do the second.
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