Only One Week Left for NY to Pass Ivory Ban

With the New York state legislature’s session wrapping up next Thursday, June 19 – time is running out to pass a bill that finally would put an end to the state’s ivory trade. With more than 80% of New York voters supporting the move, along with many others throughout the country, we are urging our leaders in both houses to heed their call.

More than 30,000 endangered elephants were poached in Africa for their tusks last year, and 2014 is slated to be even worse. Therefore, everyone must do their part if we hope to bring an end to this crisis. And while that may seem like a world away, New York is actually home to the largest ivory market in the United States, so reducing demand here can have a significant impact. Additionally, the state has the opportunity to be the first in the country to pass a law like this, paving the way for the rest of the nation to follow and further drive down the U.S. ivory market, which is second only to China.

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                                                         (C) Jay Tansey

It might come as a surprise to some that the U.S. ivory market is still alive and thriving since newer ivory is illegal in the U.S. However, sales of older ivory products are still allowed. Unfortunately, that is very difficult to enforce since it’s almost impossible to determine the age of ivory. This has provided a loophole for traffickers to sneak new products onto shelves under the guise of “antiques.” To make a dent in the market and end the slaughter of these majestic creatures, that loophole must be closed.

Bills are pending in both the state Senate (S 7194) and Assembly (A 8824a) that would do just that. And both have until the end of the session next week to be brought up for a vote. If passed, they will do two very important things:

First, legislation would ban the vast majority of antique ivory sales, including the types of items wildlife traffickers are selling most commonly in New York – those made entirely or almost entirely of ivory like figurines and netsuke.  This piece is critical to address the abuse of existing age limits.

Second, legislation would increase penalties for those who violate New York’s wildlife trade laws. That’s something that law enforcement at both the state and federal level also support. As I’ve written before in more detail, current New York law fails to differentiate between penalties for those who sell illegal wildlife worth $1,500 and those who sell illegal wildlife worth $2 million, which means the penalty is the same whether you sell, say, two boxes of carved ivory representing two poached elephants or over 70 boxes of ivory representing 100 poached elephants. Especially given the fact that wildlife traffickers reap huge sums from their sales – for example elephant ivory sells for over $1,500 per pound – this penalty scheme doesn’t do anything to deter wildlife traffickers. This bill changes that.  

To end its role in ivory poaching, New York needs to place limits on the types of ivory being sold that actually mean something and it needs to make it more risky than profitable for wildlife traffickers to engage in crimes that are destroying our globe’s species. These bills would do that. So what are our leaders waiting for?


Tell your New York state representative to pass ivory legislation here. 

And tell your New York state senator to do the same here.

About the Authors

Elly Pepper

Wildlife Advocate, Land & Wildlife program

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