A bill to prohibit the sale of ivory and rhino horn in Minnesota has been signed into law by Governor Tim Walz. SF 1505/HF 1403 was included in the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature during the recently concluded 2019 special legislative session. The provision had strong bipartisan support and was authored by Sen. Andrew Mathews (R – Milaca) and Rep. Fue Lee (DFL – Minneapolis).
An unprecedented global poaching crisis threatens elephants and rhinos. Under the new law, ivory and rhino horn sales are prohibited but items containing ivory and rhino horn can still be possessed, gifted or passed down to beneficiaries and bona fide antiques and musical instruments are exempt.
"I'm proud to have carried this bill to strengthen protections for a cherished, yet endangered species," said chief author Rep. Fue Lee (DFL - Minneapolis). "By closing a loophole that allowed Ivory trade in Minnesota, we can help combat wildlife trafficking and work with global partners to raise awareness around this issue."
Christine Coughlin, Minnesota state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said: “No one wants to see elephants and rhinos go extinct. We are grateful to Sen. Mathews and Rep. Lee for their leadership and this commitment to conservation, and to Governor Walz for signing the bill. Under this new law Minnesota will join the international effort to end the illegal wildlife trafficking that is threatening the future of these iconic animals.”
- We may see extinctions of elephants and rhinos from the wild within our lifetimes. Scientists estimate some sub-populations of the African elephant could be extinct in a decade if poaching continues at the current rate. All extant five rhino species are threatened with extinction.
- A census released in September 2016 found that populations of African savanna elephant had declined by 30 percent from 2007 to 2014. The worldwide illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007 and tripled since 1998.
- Elephant and rhino poaching is a brutal and bloody practice – animals are sometimes chased with helicopters and shot down with military-grade weapons. Tusks and horns are harvested by cutting off the faces of the sometimes still-living animals. Very young animals are often killed for their tiny stubble of tusk or horn. Elephant babies who do not have tusks are left as orphans; unable to fend for themselves, and often die if they are not rescued by humans.
- In 2016, an antiques dealer in Wabasha, MN, pled guilty to smuggling elephant ivory worth $40,000 to $95,000. That same year, a professor at St. Cloud State in Minnesota was convicted of smuggling elephant ivory and rhino horn worth more than $1 million in over 300 sales. In January 2019, authorities seized rhino feet and horn, a carved elephant tusk, and various other ivory items from a home in Oakdale, MN.
- Similar laws have been passed in recent years in New Jersey, New York, California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire and Illinois.