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Jane Goodall, Leonardo DiCaprio and Dave Matthews Join Businesses and Conservation Groups to Sign Open Letter Supporting US Ivory Restrictions

An open letter to President Obama published today in the Washington Post expresses support for the Administration’s proposed new rules to halt domestic ivory sales. Signatories on the letter include high-profile individuals, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Dave Matthews, alongside a coalition of businesses and conservation organizations representing millions of Americans.

Representatives of the coalition issued the following statements:

Jane Goodall PhD, DBE, Founder, Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger Peace, said: “The mass poaching of elephants in Africa should be of great global concern. I applaud the US ban on ivory in its intent to counter the devastating toll on dwindling elephant populations in the wild and address the physical and emotional suffering of these intelligent and highly social animals. It is my hope that this strong move by President Obama will encourage other countries to do whatever it takes to end the demand for ivory products – from wild elephants – within their own borders.”

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, DPhil, OBE, and Founder of Save the Elephants, said: “At the heart of the elephant poaching crisis is the seemingly insatiable demand for their tusks. Closing the door to the illegal ivory trade in the U.S. is an important step towards saving elephants, and signals to the world that the continued existence of elephants must be valued above mere ivory trinkets."

Dr. Patrick Bergin, CEO, African Wildlife Foundation, said: “If we want all countries to make a commitment to living elephants by getting tough on the ivory trade, then the United States, as one of the largest ivory markets in the world, must lead by example. We commend the Administration for setting the tone on this issue—that the U.S. values living elephants above the profit from dead ones. We can live without ivory; elephants can’t.”

Azzedine Downes, President and CEO, International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “The Administration appreciates the difference between a carved statue and a living, breathing elephant, and the proposed US ivory rules would help ensure that this planet doesn’t lose its most iconic animal for the sake of souvenirs. If implemented, these new rules would significantly reduce the amount of illegal ivory smuggled into and sold in this country, and would set an example for the rest of the world.

“Americans across the political spectrum agree with this effort, and now is the time to implement the strongest possible protections for elephants and other endangered wildlife.”

Charles Knowles, Executive Director, Wildlife Conservation Network, said: “With over 30,000 elephants killed last year for their ivory, it is time for the world to do something to stop the slaughter of one of the world’s most intelligent, sensitive and self aware animals. Their future depends on a global coalition to develop and deploy well-funded, strategic and efficient actions to address the growing demand for ivory, its trafficking and ultimately poaching of elephants. We support the US government’s leadership in these efforts.”

Jim Maddy, President and CEO, Association of Zoos & Aquariums, said:
“AZA-accredited zoos connect people with elephants and help raise awareness about the conservation issues these incredible creatures face in their natural ranges,” said Jim Maddy, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. “The ivory rules proposed by the Obama Administration are an important step. Now we need to do what we can to educate people on what they can do to help end the illegal ivory trade.”

Carter Roberts, President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund and member of U.S. Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, said: “There are just too many loopholes in the current system for Americans to feel secure that the ivory they buy or sell is not connected to the ongoing slaughter of elephants in Africa.

“If we hope to influence this issue globally, we have to get it right here in the United States. The illegal ivory trade is fueled by organized crime. By placing restrictions on ivory sales, the Administration is making a commitment to not tolerate the senseless slaughter of wildlife and the global criminal syndicates profiting from it.”

Cristián Samper, President and CEO, Wildlife Conservation Society and member of U.S. Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, said: “WCS thanks the Obama Administration for its strong action to eliminate ivory sales and to save elephants. We thank the thousands of U.S. citizens who are making a difference by backing an ivory ban and joining the 96 Elephants.org Campaign, and we encourage all to make their voices heard. Just in New York State, we know that more than 80 percent want an ivory ban based on a recent poll. This ban is important in the United States and we need clear, decisive action to save these magnificent animals. Along with our partners, we are committed to stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand.”

It is estimated that between 25,000 and 50,000 elephants are killed for their ivory each year, resulting in fewer than half a million elephants remaining in Africa’s savannas and
jungles — a drastic plunge over the last 50 years.