Photo by Shuttestock
New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed into law on Tuesday a bill ending the sale of ivory and rhinoceros horn. The legislation, the first statewide ban of its kind in the United States, “closes the loopholes in ivory commerce,” according to Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, who co-sponsored the bill with Senator Raymond Lesniak. Although federal law already prohibits commercial trade of ivory products, it doesn’t apply to intrastate trade. The new ban won’t just be a boon to threatened wildlife populations, it will also serve to cut off a source of terrorist funding.
Photo by Shutterstock
“Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab, The Lord’s Resistance Army, and Janjaweed, are funding their operations with profits from poaching and the illegal ivory trade,” Mukherji said when he introduced the bill in June. “With New Jersey ports serving as a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking and our proximity to New York City, the largest ivory buyer in the country, we as a legislature needed to act now.”
Born Free U.S.A., a national animal-advocacy nonprofit, estimates that more than 86,000 elephants have been poached since January 2012. “The elephant poaching epidemic across Africa has reached crisis levels,” says Adam M. Roberts, its CEO. “If the killing rate continues, certain African elephant populations could be extinct within a decade.”
In addition, hundreds of rhinos are killed for their horns every year, despite conclusive evidence that they have no medicinal properties. Fewer than 5,000 of Africa’s black rhinos and 3,000 of India and Nepal’s one-horned rhinos remain, Roberts adds. In Southeast Asia, Sumatran and Javan rhinos number only in the hundreds and tens, respectively.
“The governor made the right decision,” Lesniak says in a statement. “This law will have New Jersey lead the way by cracking down on the illicit market of these products, reducing the demand and the profits from the sales of these products. This is an ecological issue with a moral and ethical dimension.”
The Humane Society of the United States also praises Christie’s move. “We are proud of Governor Christie and state legislators’ actions today and applaud them for recognizing the impact the new law will have on the global ivory trade,” says Kathleen Schatzmann, the group’s New Jersey state director. “New Jersey’s leadership shines by setting an example for other states and countries to follow.”