As African leaders conferred with U.S. officials on how to end the wildlife trafficking crisis at yesterday’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, New Jersey Governor Christie signed legislation that will crack down on the state’s ivory trade and help end the skyrocketing poaching levels, which led to the deaths of more than 30,000 elephants in 2012.
Sponsored by Senators Lesniak and Bateman and Assembly members Mukherji and Jasey, the bipartisan bill (A.3128/S.2012), which overwhelmingly passed the New Jersey Assembly and Senate in June, prohibits individuals from importing, selling, bartering, purchasing, or possessing with intent to sell any ivory or rhinoceros horn products, with exemptions for certain educational items.
The bill also helps protect endangered wildlife by creating strict financial penalties for those caught dealing in illegal wildlife, making a first offense punishable by fine of $1,000 or double the value of the product, whichever is greater, and a second offense punishable by a fine of $5,000 or double the value of the product, whichever is greater. The bill also requires that, once convicted, the wildlife trafficker forfeit the wildlife products in his or her possession to the state for disposal via destruction or donation to an educational institution.
This is great news for elephants, New Jersey, and the U.S. as a whole as we attempt to bring an end to the poaching crisis and our country’s role in that. State efforts such as the legislation in New Jersey and the hopefully soon-to-be-signed legislation in New York are also the perfect complement to federal efforts to strengthen U.S. ivory laws.
As I was reminded on a recent trip to South Africa, where I took the photo above, elephants are simply incredible creatures. Words just can’t describe how amazing it is to watch them eat, play, fight, and nurse their young. They need all the help they can get and New Jersey has shown the country that it’s on board – hopefully the rest of the states will listen!