The Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Humane Society of the United States praised the New York State Legislature today for passing landmark legislation that bans the sale and purchase of elephant ivory and rhino horn. 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 worked out this week, 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.

The legislation

  • Places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn.
  • Authorizes DEC to issue permits for the sale of  following items containing or made from elephant ivory:
    • 100 year-old antiques with less than 20 percent volume elephant ivory with documented proof of provenance.
    • Musical instruments (string, wind and piano) manufactured prior to 1975.
    • Elephant ivory where transfer of ownership is for education and scientific purposes including to a museum chartered by the Board of Regents.
    • Elephant ivory where transfer is to a legal beneficiary of a trust of estat.
  • Increases penalties for elephant ivory or rhino horn articles as follows:
    • Greater of $3,000 or 2x value of article for first offense.
    • Greater of $6,000 or 3x value of article for 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.

Said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper who also serves as a member of The President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking: “Today, the New York State legislature has made history passing a strong, balanced ivory ban in the U.S.  New York has shown global leadership on this issue and has made a stand to protect these magnificent creatures.”

Said Elly Pepper, Wildlife Advocate for NRDC: “The brutal and ongoing practice of slaughtering African elephants for their tusks may seem distant, but just recently we saw an ugly and vivid example of this practice as one of the world’s most recognized elephants was shot down in Kenya. New York State is the biggest market for ivory in the United States, which is the second-biggest market in the world. By making it harder for traffickers to sneak illegal ivory onto the market, the state is doing its part to ensure that the world’s remaining elephants are not massacred for trinkets and trophies.”

Brian Shapiro, New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “We applaud the New York State Legislature for its leadership and overwhelming support. New York residents should take pride in this important legislation that protects elephants and rhinos, cracks down on wildlife traffickers and ends New York’s role in the deadly international elephant ivory and rhino horn trades.”

New York is the number one importer of elephant ivory into the United States. This state legislation will enhance federal efforts to tighten the elephant 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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