By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
NJ and NY Pass Bills to Save African Elephants and Rhinos
The New Jersey legislature passed S. 2012/A.3128, a bill that seeks to eliminate trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn. Introduced by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-20) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33), illegal trafficking of these wildlife products is directly responsible for shocking declines in wild populations in recent years, and this bill is a crucial step toward reducing the target market.
“The elephant poaching epidemic across Africa has reached crisis levels and rhino poaching is escalating exponentially,” said Adam Roberts, CEO at Born Free USA. “As the second largest ivory market in the world, the United States bears a significant responsibility to act now. New Jersey is of particular importance because the port of Newark is a hub for illegal wildlife trade.”
Elephant poaching has become increasingly severe over the past several years, and it is estimated that more than 86,000 elephants have been poached since January 2012. “If the killing rate continues, certain African elephant populations could be extinct within a decade,” said Roberts.
Additionally, all five rhino species are in serious danger due to poaching. Africa’s black rhinos are critically endangered, with a population of fewer than 5,000. There are only 3,000 one-horned rhinos remaining in India and Nepal, and Southeast Asia’s Sumatran rhinos number only in the hundreds. Javan rhinos are less than three dozen. The horns, made of a substance akin to fingernails, are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Despite conclusive evidence that they have no curative properties, hundreds of rhinos are killed for their horns every year.
Senator Lesniak, stated, “The illegal trade in ivory products for which Port Newark-Elizabeth is a major factor also contributes to organized crime, not only throughout the world but also here in the state of New Jersey. Also, we don’t exist as a state in isolation. We’re part of a worldwide population that’s concerned not only about animal rights but also what this illegal trade has done in terms of fueling organized crime, drug smuggling and gun running — which has a tremendous impact on society as a whole.”
Assemblyman Mukherji, sponsor of the Assembly bill, said, “Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab, The Lord’s Resistance Army, and Janjaweed are funding their operations with profits from poaching and the illegal ivory trade. With New Jersey ports serving as a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking and our proximity to New York City, the largest ivory buyer in the country, we as a legislature needed to act now. Just two weeks ago, U.S. Attorney Fishman secured a lengthy federal sentence for the ringleader of a rhinoceros trafficking ring and pointed to the threat to the United States posed by the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife market.”
Mukherji added, “Ivory trafficking is at the highest rate ever recorded, and it is driving elephants and other endangered and threatened species toward extinction. By prohibiting sale and importation, this bill closes loopholes in ivory commerce and, coupled with federal law and recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations, will take our state out of these nefarious activities.”
More Good News
And as I was editing this story, I received word that the New York State legislature passed a bill banning the sale of ivory and rhino horn. “These bans are important tools for regulating, and, we hope, eventually ending the ivory and rhino horn trade,” says Jeffrey Flocken, North American Regional Director of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Every 15 minutes on average, an African elephant is slaughtered for its ivory tusks to support a mass consumer demand. Rhinos, which are also poached for their horns, are similarly threatened. The U.S. ranks as one of the largest ivory consumers in the world and New York serves as one its biggest entry points and markets.”
Michele C. Hollow writes the animal advocacy blog Pet News and Views. She is also the pets/wildlife columnist at Parade. You can read her stories by clicking here.