By Matthew Hamilton
Yesterday it was selfies with big cats. Today it’s the illegal ivory trade.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill targeting the illegal ivory trade by strengthening criminal and civil penalties for buyers and sellers. The law bans the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhinoceros horns, though exceptions are made for products, such as antiques, that are proven to be at least 100 years old and contain only small amounts of ivory.
The increased penalties include making it a class D felony to sell, trade or barter with ivory worth more than $25,000.
The bill also authorizes the state Department of Environmental Conservation to issue licenses or permits for selling, buying, trading or distributing ivory in “limited situations.”
Believe it or not, New York is a major player in the illegal ivory trade, with New York City acting as a gateway for the valuable material. State DEC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Manhattan district attorney’s office seized more than $2 million worth of ivory from jewelers based in New York City in 2012, according to a release.
Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chair of the chamber’s Environmental Conservation Committee, told City & State in January that the United States is the second-largest importer of illegal ivory behind China. New York is the country’s primary market, he 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,” Sweeney said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
Cuomo said the new law sends a clear message that New York will not allow the illegal ivory trade to continue.
By the way, today is World Elephant Day.
See the full release here.