Although we filed our lawsuit in mid-December to prevent implementation of Sec. 2025 of the California Fish and Game Code —  née AB 96 that will virtually ban all trade and movement of objects made from or with ivory — the Attorney General has yet to formally respond despite a 15-day extension that ended on the 25th of January.

The first reaction from the State of California has come from the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the form of a $1,778,000 addendum to the Governor’s 2016-2017 budget for enforcement of the new law to “protect African elephants and rhinoceros from extinction.” Nicely put, since that is one of the key contentions of our lawsuit: that the well-being of elephants and rhinoceros are a concern at the national level, but it is hard to see how the protection of African elephants is any part of the business of the government of the State of California.

There was no provision for enforcement included in AB 96 — the sponsors were thought to fear a loss of support if “doing good” for elephants turned out to cost any real money. Our lawsuit notes that the absence of enforcement funds, however, clearly violates the State’s constitution. While the lawsuit may have forced the Department into calculating the cost of enforcing a ban on ivory, they apparently decided to take full bureaucratic advantage of an opening to fill up on budget authority.

The Department has larded its request for additional funds — demonstrably absent in several places from the Governor’s original 2016-2017 budget — with a host of new personnel and equipment. The addition of 4 new wardens, a lieutenant, a technical specialist in the DFW laboratory, a lawyer, an administrative specialist, and more trucks, equipment is ostensibly aimed at conquering a “threat” that is simply no where to be found. The Department did a key word statistical search to discover that over a 42- month period, 404 department hours were expended on activities that included the word “ivory” or “elephant.” No effort was made, of course, to determine if the use of the words on the Department’s reporting forms involved an illegal activity or a positive reference.

Even if every use of these words reflected something nefarious, less than 10 hours a month out of nearly 175 working hours per month were consumed by activity related to ivory or elephants. How many businesses hire 8 new employees to deal with a roughly estimated 6% increase in workload? How many businesses could afford the 36% added cost that new employees bring in the form of health insurance, workmen’s compensation, and the enhanced retirement contributions made for law enforcement personnel?

No one has produced a shred of credible evidence that California is a hotbed for trade in objects made from or with poached ivory. The best that anyone has been able to say is that there are certainly ivory objects for sale in retail shops in California that could “possibly” have come from tusks taken after 1977 — when the import of such material required paperwork and approval; but no one can say that any piece worked after that date has “probably” come from a tusk that came into the United States illegally. Until there is a proven problem in California with illegal ivory, the cost of this level of enforcement is a shameful waste of public funds.

We look forward to contacting all the key legislative players as well as the Governor’s office to point out the outrageous liberties the Department has taken with this supplemental request.

Godfrey (Jeff) Harris
Managing Director, Ivory Education Institute