Newswise — NEW YORK (August 12, 2014) – The Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Humane Society of the United States, and The Nature Conservancy applaud New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for signing a state ban on the sale and purchase of elephant ivory and rhino horn today on World Elephant Day.
Governor Cuomo signed into law a two-house bill formulated to address New York State’s status as the number one importer of ivory in the United States. The legislation was introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly on June 17th (by State Senators Andrew Lanza and Tony Avella, and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney respectively) and passed by the full legislature on June 20th.
The law strengthens an existing 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. Major changes to the law include stiffer penalties and potential jail time for individuals buying or selling contraband more than $25,000 in value.
Assemblyman Robert Sweeney said: “This new law will protect elephants, which are being slaughtered at the rate of 96 per day, to satisfy the vanity ivory market and to finance terrorism. The law now acknowledges the significant impact our state can have on clamping down on illegal ivory sales a continent away in order to save elephants from the ruthless poaching operations run by terrorists and organized crime which threaten their extinction.”
Said State Senator Andrew Lanza: “The illegal ivory trade is an international crisis in which 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2012 alone. Poachers who are supporting terrorism and the drug trade are acting with impunity helped in part by receptive markets in New York City and Asia. This legislation will lead to higher conviction rates and tough criminal sentences.”
“Today, New York State is taking a stand against a dangerous and cruel industry that is endangering animals across the world,” Governor Cuomo said. “Restricting the market for ivory articles will help bring an end to the slaughtering of elephants and rhinoceroses and sends a clear message that we will not allow the illegal ivory trade to continue in New York. I urge other states and nations to join us in working to protect these endangered species for generations to come.”
State Senator Tony Avella, primary co-sponsor of Bill S.7890, stated: “The rate at which elephants and rhinoceros species are moving towards extinction is deeply troubling. Despite being listed as endangered species, these animals are being slaughtered in increasingly large numbers for the sole purpose of ivory and horn sale, the majority of which is illegal. That is why it is our responsibility, as State Legislators, to update and strengthen existing laws in order to deter this behavior. I was proud to co-sponsor Senator Andrew Lanza’s bill to explicitly prohibit the purchase and sale of ivory articles and rhinoceros horns in New York State and increase the penalties for the illegal sale of these articles. I am very glad that the bill passed both houses of the State Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.”
Said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Director of the 96 Elephants Campaign: “Today on World Elephant Day, elephants, and those who work to protect them, have scored a tremendous victory. We commend Governor Cuomo and the New York legislature for showing true leadership by tackling the ivory trade head on. Now more than ever, we need to ban the ivory trade to protect elephants, and we look forward to working with other states and the federal government to ensure that strong bans are passed and implemented across the U.S.”
World Elephant Day is being commemorated by 96 Elephants and participating AZA zoos across the U.S. with 96,000 messages being sent to public officials about the need to protect elephants. Supporters are being asked to “Go Grey” by wearing a grey ribbon or simply wearing something grey. Participants can then take “elphies” with their Go Grey ribbons or hold signs of support and post images on social media using the hashtag #GoGrey. Several celebrities have already posted elphies including Betty White, Ricky Gervais, Alyssa Milano, Katie Lee and Audra McDonald.
The new law takes effect immediately and places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn. The sale of mammoth ivory—often used as a cover for illegal elephant ivory—is also prohibited under the new law. The sale of certain items will be allowed with permits issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation. License and permit holders may sell existing elephant ivory and rhino horn until current licenses or permits expire.
Authorized items include:
1) 100-year-old antiques containing less than 20 percent elephant ivory with documented proof of provenance.
2) Musical instruments (string, wind, and pianos) manufactured prior to 1975.
3) Elephant ivory where transfer of ownership is for educational or scientific purposes including 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.
The new law also increases penalties for offenders:
• 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).
This state law also will enhance federal efforts to tighten the ivory trade ban on a federal level.
The illegal ivory trade is currently driving the widespread poaching of elephants while contributing to a climate of instability in many African elephant range states. In 2013, WCS launched a new campaign called “96 Elephants” aimed at stopping the poaching crisis. Specifically, the campaign focuses on: securing effective U.S. moratorium laws; bolstering elephant protection with additional funding; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; facebook.com/TheWCS;youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow: @theWCS.
WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In September, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign to amplify and support the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants” by stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand. The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective moratoria on sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis. www.96elephants.org