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New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill to Crack Down on the Sale of Elephant Ivory and Rhino Horns

Gov. Christie urged to sign legislation to protect elephants and rhinos

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The New Jersey State Assembly passed crucial legislation to end New Jersey’s contribution to the devastating international elephant ivory and rhino horn trades. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. If enacted, S.2012/A.3128, sponsored by Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, D- District 20, and Assemblymember Raj Mukherji, would prohibit all sales and trade in rhino horns and ivory in the state. It will be the first such law passed by any U.S. state.

The Humane Society of the United States and its global affiliate, Humane Society International, urge Gov. Chris Christie to sign S.2012/ A.3128, into law. The legislation has broad support from New Jersey residents including more than a dozen antique businesses who submitted supporting testimony to the legislature. The bill passed 76-2.

Senate Economic Growth Chairman Raymond Lesniak, said: “New Jersey has a chance to be a global leader in elephant and rhino conservation by ending the ivory and rhino horn trade and setting an example for other states and nations to follow with the swift signing of this bill.”

Kathleen Schatzmann, New Jersey state director for The HSUS said: “We applaud Senator Lesniak and Assemblymember Mukerji for their leadership in shutting down New Jersey’s market for ivory and rhino horns. Their effort has catapulted New Jersey to the forefront of the national and global effort to save these imperiled animals. The passage of the bill today serves as a most appropriate tribute to Satao, one of Kenya’s largest and iconic elephants killed by poachers for his tusks a few weeks ago. We urge swift signing of the bill.”

Assemblymember Mukherji, remarked: “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.”


  • About 28,000 rhinos of five different species remain in the wild. More than 1,000 were poached last year for their horns
  • About 35,000 African elephants were poached in 2012 for their ivory tusks. If the poaching rate continues, African elephants could be extinct in a few decades. In Central Africa, populations of forest elephants have declined by 65 percent during the last decade. Asian elephants are critically endangered with less than 50,000 left in the wild.
  • New Jersey is a main point of entry for smuggled wildlife and adjacent to New York City, the largest market for ivory in the country. The bill would assist federal efforts to shut down the ivory and rhino horn trade by closing one of the nation’s largest ports to this illegal wildlife trade.
  • Criminal investigation by New Jersey state agencies and the federal government last year led to the prosecution of an international network of wildlife traffickers in rhino horns and ivory worth of several million dollars. The network’s ringleader, Zhifei Li, was sentenced to 70 months in prison last month in a U.S. district court in New Jersey.
  • Criminal networks and Africa-based terrorist groups engage in poaching and use the proceeds from the sales to fund their nefarious activities. 

Raúl Arce-Contreras: 301-721-6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org               

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