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Pending Federal Legislation Could Both Help And Hurt Elephants- Fall 2018 Update

Three forest elephants at Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic © Elephant Listening Project

Multiple pieces of legislation that could have a large impact on wild elephant conservation are currently being considered in Congress. Some of them are good while others may have severe ramifications. It is vital that we keep track of these proceedings, so we can pressure our elected representatives to make decisions that benefit rather than harm these magnificent animals. Below is a summary of six federal bills that are presently being considered.

Legislation HELPFUL to Elephants

H.R. 6197 — Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act of 2018


This bill would grant the U.S. State Department authority to issue rewards for information leading to the capture and conviction of international wildlife traffickers. Specifically, it would modify the Rewards for Justice Program, which issues rewards for information on international crime and terrorism, by incorporating wildlife trafficking into the definition of “transnational organized crime.”¹ This legislation would make it easier to prosecute criminals smuggling illegal ivory and would hopefully lead to more of them getting caught.


Bill passed the House of Representatives in September, 2018 and has moved to the Senate¹.

H.R. 5690 — Prohibiting Threatened And Endangered Creature Trophies (PROTECT) Act


This bill would amend the Endangered Species Act to prohibit the importation of trophies from any species listed as threatened or endangered. This includes both African and Asian elephants². The law would likely reduce American trophy hunters’ incentive to kill elephants abroad since they will no longer be able to bring the animals’ body parts back home.


Bill is currently being considered in the House of Representatives².

H.R. 5697 — Wildlife Conservation And Anti-Trafficking Act


This bill would authorize multiple federal agencies to disburse rewards to whistleblowers who provide information regarding wildlife trafficking operations. The money for these rewards would come from fines collected from convicted traffickers. The legislation would also heighten penalties for illegal ivory sales since violations of the African Elephant Conservation Act dealing with these activities would be classified as “criminal racketeering” under the U.S. Code’s Travel and Racketeering Statute³.


Two versions of this bill have been introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate. It is being considered in both chambers³.

H.R. 227 — Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act


This bill would reauthorize the African and Asian Elephant Conservation Funds for 2018–2022. The Secretary of the Interior would therefore be able to distribute up to $10 million, per year, towards elephant conservation programs ($5 million for each species). This funding would be a significant boost to conservation efforts in countries ravaged by poaching for ivory. The bill also provides funding for rhino, tiger, and ape conservation⁴.


Bill is currently being considered in the House of Representatives⁴.

Legislation potentially HARMFUL to Elephants

S. 1965 — Allowing Alaska Ivory Act


This bill would bar states and municipalities from prohibiting the importation of and/or trade in Native American craftwork made from walrus and mammoth ivory⁵. Since African elephant ivory is frequently disguised as ivory from other species⁶, this bill would make smuggling the former easier.


Bill is currently being considered in the Senate⁵.

H.R. 2603/S.2778 — Saving America’s Endangered Species Act


These bills would prohibit the listing of species not native to the U.S. as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act⁷ ⁸. African and Asian elephants could lose their status as threatened⁹ and endangered species¹⁰, respectively. They would therefore lose many protections and law enforcement would likely have a harder time controlling the trade in their body parts.


Two versions of this bill have been introduced in the House⁷ and Senate⁸. It is being considered in both chambers.


¹U.S. Congress. House. Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act of 2018. HR 6197. 115th Cong. 2nd sess. Introduced in House June 22, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/housebill/6197?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Rescuing+Animals+With+Rewards+%28RAWR%29+Act+of+2018%22%5D%7D&r=1

²U.S. Congress. House. Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act of 2018. HR 5690. 2nd sess. Introduced in House May 7, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115thcongress/housebill/5690?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Prohibiting+Threatened+And+Endangered+Creature+Trophies%22%5D%7D&r=1

³U.S. Congress. House. Wildlife Conservation And Anti-Trafficking Act. HR 5697. 2nd sess. Introduced in House May 8, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5697/actions?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Wildlife+Conservation+And+Anti-Trafficking+Act%22%5D%7D&r=1

⁴U.S. Congress. House. Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act. HR 227. 1st sess. Introduced in House January 3, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/housebill/227?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Multinational+Species+Conservation+Funds+Reauthorization+Act%22%5D%7D&r=1

⁵U.S. Congress. Senate. Allowing Alaska Ivory Act. S 1965. 1st sess. Introduced in Senate January 3, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1965?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22allowing+alaska+ivory%22%5D%7D&r=1

⁶Einhorn, Bruce. “Woolly Mammoths Invade Hong Kong.” Www.bloomberg.com. February 19, 2015. Accessed October 30, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-19/in-hong-kong-elephant-ivory-disguised-as-mammoth-tusks.

⁷U.S. Congress. House. Saving America’s Endangered Species Act. HR 2603. 1st sess. Introduced in House May 23, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2603?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Saving+Americas+Endangered+Species+Act%22%5D%7D&r=1

⁸U.S. Congress. Senate. Saving America’s Endangered Species Act. S 2778. 2nd sess. Introduced in Senate April 26, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2778/actions?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Saving+Americas+Endangered+Species+Act%22%5D%7D&r=2

⁹"Species Profile for African Elephant (Loxodonta africana).” Ecos.fws.gov. Accessed November 1, 2018. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?spcode=A07U.

¹⁰"Species Profile for Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus).” Ecos.fws.gov. Accessed November 1, 2018. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A059.

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Conserving the tropical forests of Africa through acoustic monitoring, sound science, and education, focusing on forest elephants