New York State Makes History: Sends Clear Message to Criminals Benefiting from the Killing off of Elephants and Rhinos

The Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Humane Society of the United States praised the New York State Legislature Friday for passing landmark legislation that bans the sale and purchase of elephant ivory and rhino horn.  The Chronicle recently reported on its passing in the Assembly last week.  It now goes to Governor Cuomo where it is anticipated he will sign it into law.

The legislation amends the state’s environmental law to ban elephant ivory sales with only a few exceptions for antiques with small amounts of ivory, certain instruments made before 1975, and transfers for educational and scientific purposes or through the distribution of estates.

After a three-way agreement was reached earlier this week between Governor Cuomo and Senate and Assembly leadership, a two-house bill was introduced in the Senate and the Assembly on June 17: S7890 by State Senators Andrew Lanza and Tony Avella; and A10143 by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney.

“With the passage of this bill, New York State has taken another step forward in the fight against the illegal ivory trade,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.  We will not allow this dangerous and cruel industry to thrive in our State, and this bill ensures that by restricting the market for illegal ivory and adding tougher penalties for those who support it. I am proud that New York is taking this stand, and I urge government and community leaders across the globe to do the same.”

“Today, the New York State legislature has made history passing a strong, balanced ban on the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn. Poaching is killing off our precious wildlife and sparking insecurity in communities,” said Bronx Zoo Executive Vice President for Public Affairs John Calvelli.  “New York is the number one importer of ivory in the United States and it was clear we needed to take this action today. Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have shown global leadership on this issue and have taken a stand to protect these magnificent creatures. This legislation should now be replicated in state houses and capitals across the globe. Working with our partners and our friends in government we will continue on with this legislative blitz. The future of these iconic species hangs in the balance.”

The legislation

—Places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn.
—Authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue permits for the sale of the following items containing of made from elephant ivory:

  1. 100 year-old antiques comprised of less than 20 percent elephant ivory with documented proof of provenance
  2. musical instruments (string, wind and piano) manufactured prior to 1975
  3. elephant ivory where transfer of ownership is for education and scientific purposes including to a museum authorized by a special charter from the legislature
  4. elephant ivory where transfer is to a legal beneficiary of a trust or estate

Increases penalties as follows:

  • A fine of $3,000 or 2x the value of the article, whichever is greater, for the first offense
  • A fine of $6,000 or 3x the value of the article, whichever is greater, for the second offense
  • Class D Felony for any articles exceeding $25,000 (up to 7 years imprisonment)

The law shall take effect immediately upon enactment. License and permit holders may sell existing elephant ivory and rhino horn until current licenses or permits expire.

This state legislation will enhance federal efforts to tighten the ivory trade ban on a federal level. Large-scale poaching of elephants and trafficking in ivory presents enormous economic and security challenges across Africa and beyond. The illegal ivory trade both flourishes from and contributes to a climate of instability and lawlessness in many African elephant range states, in which humanitarian crimes have risen dramatically.

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