MARYLAND—Today the Maryland legislature passed a bill that would ban the sale of parts and products made from imperiled wildlife species. The legislation is now headed to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature. The bill (HB 52/SB 381) prohibits the trade in Maryland of products made from 15 at-risk species including tigers, lions, pangolins, giraffes, elephants, rhinos and sea turtles.
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International conducted an undercover investigation in 2021 that revealed a thriving ivory trade in Maryland. Hundreds of items likely made from ivory were found for sale at 20 stores across the state. The items included carved elephant tusks, figurines, trinkets and jewelry. Many of the sellers were unable to provide any information or documentation on the age or origin of the items that were likely ivory, which is required under federal law.
“Our undercover investigation demonstrated the need for urgent action to protect at-risk species by banning the sale of their parts and products here in Maryland,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Maryland state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are grateful to Senator Will Smith and Delegate Sara Love for prioritizing the lives of these incredible animals over trinkets made from their body parts, and for taking decisive action before these animals go extinct.”
Federal laws and regulations primarily restrict the import, export or interstate trade of products from endangered and threatened species, but they do not regulate intrastate sales. Because illicit products are smuggled into local and state markets, state laws are needed to complement existing federal laws and regulations to stop the cruel global poaching epidemic.
Each year, as many as 15,000 elephants are killed in Africa to supply the demand for their ivory. A recent report found the population of savanna elephants has declined by 60%, and forest elephants by more than 86% since the 1970s, placing them just steps from extinction.
Between 2006 and 2015, approximately 40,000 giraffe parts and products were imported into the U.S. African lion populations have declined by 43% since 1993 and are still declining. Pangolins are targeted for their scales and are the most highly trafficked mammal in the world.
“Maryland consumers don’t want to contribute to the poaching crisis. By aligning Maryland law with federal law, we are doing our part to help these beautiful animals survive for future generations,” said Del. Sara Love, D-Montgomery, lead sponsor of HB 52. “As a wildlife lover and someone who has had the opportunity to see many of these species in their natural habitats, I am proud that Maryland has taken a stand.”
Sen. Jack Bailey, R-St. Mary’s, has worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents to track illegal ivory imports. He spoke on the floor after the Senate voted in favor of the bill, stating, “This is a step in the right direction.”
“The U.S. is a major contributor to the $20 billion illegal wildlife trade, which pushes many iconic animals to the brink of extinction while increasing global instability,” said Sen. Will Smith, D-Montgomery, lead sponsor of SB 381. “Not only will this law protect imperiled species across the globe, but it will also shore up national security and starve criminal syndicates of another source of profit.”