Senators seek answers on ivory ban

A controversial rule from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that bans the commercial trade and sale of elephant ivory has caught the attention of senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote to FWS Director Dan Ashe this week warning of the "unintended consequences" the rule would have on musicians and gun collectors.

"We applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's continued commitment to addressing this issue, because we share your concern about the horrific effects of poaching," the senators wrote. "It is our hope to work with you to find a path forward that advances the protection of the species without unintended consequences." 

Critics have complained the rule would negatively affect musicians and gun collectors, because many old instruments and pistols were made with small amounts of ivory.

While they would be allowed to keep these antiques, they would be restricted from selling them.

Some have suggested the FWS exempt all antique items from the rule, which is intended to crack down on current day elephant poaching in Africa. But the agency said the rule is needed, because many smugglers will pretended that newly poached ivory is, in fact, antique.

The senators wrote to Ashe with 11 questions to learn more about how the FWS came to its decision and how it intends to enforce the rule.

"What percentage of elephant ivory, including objects made with or containing part of elephant ivory, sold in the U.S. over the past three years is believed to be from poaching?" they asked.