New Jersey First To Ban Ivory Trade
New Jersey is thousands of miles from the killing fields of Africa, where elephants and rhinoceroses are slaughtered for their tusks and horns. But New Jersey is not far from the root cause of this disaster.
The United States is second behind China in demand for these “blood” items, acquired through horrific cruelty and leading to the extinction of these magnificent animals. New York City is America’s biggest market for ivory and rhino horn, and New Jersey’s ports are an entry hub. As long as the market exists, the killing will continue.
Fortunately, New Jersey’s role in the ivory trade may soon be over. This state we’re in just became the first in the nation to ban both the import and in-state sale of rhino horn and ivory from elephants, walruses, whales and several other animals.
In June, the state Legislature – at the urging of the Humane Society and other animal conservation groups – passed a bill to prohibit ivory and rhino horn trade. Governor Christie signed it into law on Aug. 5. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar ban a few days later.
“We’re really excited – from an environmental standpoint, from a conservation standpoint, from a humanitarian standpoint and from a national security standpoint,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Assembly. “Ivory trafficking is at the highest point in history, and elephants are facing extinction because of it.”
“By signing this legislation, Governor Christie is showing the world that New Jersey will tolerate no role in the ivory market,” added Mukherji.
“This victory is the first ripple of what will be, if I have anything to do with it – and I will – a tidal wave that will spread across America and throughout the world that will protect these creations of God,” said Senator Ray Lesniak, the bill’s Senate sponsor.
According to animal conservation groups, an estimated 35,000 elephants in Africa were slaughtered for their tusks in 2012, despite laws meant to protect them.
Satao was a recent victim. He was one of Kenya’s best-known elephants, who suffered a painful death after being felled by a poacher’s poison arrow in Tsavo National Park in May. The killing of this giant male in a protected park sparked an international outcry.
“The fight to protect Satao’s relatives and others of his kind must happen on the ground in the range nations,” wrote Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “But it also must happen, in a different way, in the wealthy consumer nations where elephant ivory is carved and turned into high-value products.”
That’s where New Jersey comes in. Much black market ivory has found its way into the U.S. because of loopholes in the law – one of which was the lack of state legislation banning import and in-state sales. The new law closes loopholes and makes federal enforcement easier, said Mukherji.
Also shut down are loopholes allowing big-game hunters to bring back large quantities of “culled” elephant heads, including ivory.
New Jersey now prohibits people from buying, selling, importing and possessing ivory and rhino horns with the intent to sell. The only things that are grandfathered, Mukherji said, are owning, bequeathing and inheriting existing ivory items.
Mukherji said that not only will New Jersey’s new law help protect elephants and rhinos, but it will put a damper on terrorist groups. “A lot of these poaching profits go to fund terrorist activities,” he said, listing Al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, and Janjaweed as terrorist groups in Africa who benefit from this inhumane trade.
Kudos to the New Jersey Legislature and Governor Christie for taking a stand against the blood ivory and rhino horn trade. New Jersey has notched many conservation-related “firsts,” and New Jerseyans should be proud that we’re leading the nation in saving some of the world’s most endangered animals. Let’s hope more states follow and the killing ends.
To learn about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit New Jersey Conservation Foundation at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com.