U.S. to crack down on ivory to protect elephants _lowres

Ivory that formed part of a 2-ton discovery by Togo troops is seen in the city of Lome, Togo, Jan. 28, 2014. Police in Togo say they arrested three men in the case. (AP Photo/Erick Kaglan)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says it will enforce a ban on nearly all sales and purchases of ivory to help stem the slaughter of elephants in Africa.

The White House says President Barack Obama has signed off on a new national strategy for combating wildlife trafficking. In addition to the ivory ban, the U.S. will seek to strengthen global enforcement and international cooperation to fight the illicit trade.

The ivory ban will use existing laws about conservation and endangered species. Despite those laws, the U.S. has not strictly enforced the requirements in those laws dealing with sale within the U.S. of ivory products. But the Fish and Wildlife Service says it will now crack down.

Certain transactions will be exempted, including some antiquities and items imported before limitations were enacted.