By Andrew Seidman
TRENTON - Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep has teamed up with New Jersey lawmakers to rally behind the beleaguered elephant - and she hopes Gov. Christie takes notice.
The Legislature on Monday sent Christie a bill that would ban the sale, purchase, or possession of ivory and rhinoceros horn.
Streep, a winner of three Oscars who has starred in movies including Sophie's Choice and Out of Africa, ramped up the pressure on the Republican governor in a statement Tuesday to the Humane Society of the United States.
"As a New Jersey native, I was delighted to learn from my friends at the Humane Society of the United States that our state could be the first in the country to enact a ban on the importation and sale of ivory - a product of horrific cruelty to elephants and rhinos, who could very well become extinct within decades if we don't act now," said Streep, originally from Summit, Union County.
"Governor, you have my full support and I hope you usher this critical bill through without delay."
More than 20,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in 2013, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
While neither elephants nor rhinos are known to frequent the Pinelands, animal-rights groups say the illicit ivory trade sometimes makes its way through New York. Lawmakers in Albany also are close to banning the ivory trade.
In February, the federal government banned the commercial trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn.
Under the New Jersey bill, ivory from other animals such as walruses and whales also would be regulated. The bill has several exceptions, including for federal or state government agents undertaking law enforcement activities.
Streep isn't the first celebrity to lobby Christie on an animal-rights issue. Last year, celebrity cook Martha Stewart urged Christie to sign a bill that would ban the use of gestation crates for pregnant pigs.
Christie vetoed the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D., Union), who is also a sponsor of the elephant/rhino legislation.