When it comes to making change in the United States, it helps when state legislatures spark or add to the momentum of important national regulatory reforms.
Nowhere is this more evident than the measures US states—from Oregon to Vermont—have proposed to ban ivory trade by closing loopholes.
Now finally, the state in which the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is headquartered—Massachusetts—is tackling this issue.
Senate Bill 440 and House Bill 1275, introduced by Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Lori Ehrlich, would ban outright the sale of ivory and rhino horn in Massachusetts, a critical step in the fight to save these animals from extinction.
Ninety-six Massachusetts legislators have already signed on as co-sponsors.
The coalition of non-profits and NGOs supporting this legislative bill is impressive. MSPCA-Angell, Zoo New England, IFAW, Born Free USA, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have joined together to encourage the passage of this important bill.
People ask me, is ivory consumption really a problem in America? Indeed it is. Although China has become the largest consumer, the US is still one of the biggest markets in the world.
Is there evidence that points to Massachusetts as a major culprit in the US ivory trade? While most research doesn’t break it down state by state, IFAW recently completed an investigation into the online classified ad giant Craigslist, in which we discovered that Boston is #4 out of the 28 markets we surveyed for ivory and related wildlife products.
The investigation, which collected data from 28 Craigslist’s city-sites March 16–20, 2015 found many instances of ivory products being sold. Investigators tracked 522 postings offering more than 600 items across the US, for a combined asking price of nearly $1.5 million. Extrapolated to a full year, this would yield over 6,600 items with a list price exceeding $15 million – on just those city-sites alone (to say nothing of Craigslist’s 392 other US sites).
And earlier this month, authorities charged a Concord, MA woman with operating a major wildlife smuggling operation, shipping nearly a million dollars’ worth of ivoryand other wildlife products to China.
Although the problem of elephant poaching might seem like only an African tragedy, our actions here at home make a huge difference abroad.
Poaching is not only a wildlife conservation and animal welfare issue but also directly linked to transnational criminal syndicates. Furthermore, the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth at least US$19 billion that is intertwined with terrorism and government corruption. These groups use poaching as a substantial source of funding for their brutal activities, which also threatens U.S. national security.
Elephants are the only ones who need ivory; rhinos are the only ones who need their horns. Massachusetts residents don’t need either.
New York and New Jersey passed similar laws last year. California, Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island, Illinois and Vermont are among the states with similar pending legislation to shut down the ivory and rhino horn trade in their jurisdictions.
Let’s make this happen here in our own backyard! Make a difference and contact your state lawmakers to support the bill if they have not already done so.
(This article originally appeared on IFAW.)