White House officials spoke with African leaders this week about combating elephant poaching and wildlife trafficking during the highly anticipated U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.

African officials shared their strategies for cracking down on the poaching of endangered elephants, even as the Obama administration pushes new rules that would ban most ivory trade in the U.S.


The United States is the second largest market for ivory, behind China. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that cutting off access to the market here would give wildlife traffickers in Africa less reason to poach elephants.

The Obama administration says it is investing $60 million in 2014 toward combating wildlife trafficking, with a big focus on elephant poaching in Africa.

"The United States has worked with African governments for years to strengthen their capacity to fight wildlife trafficking," the White House said in a statement. "We also help protect Africa’s natural resources by prosecuting criminals who traffic in endangered and protected species in the United States, including those trafficking endangered rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory."

As part of President Obama's National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which aims to strengthen enforcement and reduce demand for elephant poaching, the Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing a near ban on ivory trade in the U.S.

The ivory sales ban is so thorough that many musicians and gun collectors have complained that they would not be allowed to sell their antiques. 

But FWS says the rules are necessary to reduce demand, because some wildlife traffickers will pretend that the ivory they got from poaching elephants is antique, when in fact it is not. 

Therefore, FWS says it will prosecute those who try to sell elephant ivory, even if it was obtained legally before the elephant became an endangered species.

"We take wildlife crime seriously and are committed to making wildlife traffickers pay for their crimes," the White House said.