New York State is commemorating World Elephant Day by enacting a law that toughens criminal and civil sanctions for parties involved in the illegal ivory trade. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation on Tuesday legislation that bans the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory, as well as rhinoceros horn, with limited exceptions. “Today, New York State is taking a stand against a dangerous and cruel industry that is endangering animals across the world,” Cuomo says in a statement. “Restricting the market for ivory articles will help bring an end to the slaughtering of elephants and rhinoceroses and sends a clear message that we will not allow the illegal ivory trade to continue in New York. I urge other states and nations to join us in working to protect these endangered species for generations to come.”
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New York State is believed to be the largest market for ivory in the United States, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“We are honored to share this historic moment with the Governor and our growing family of supporters in bringing the ivory trade to an end in New York State, the No. 1 importer of ivory in the United States,” says John Calvelli, the conservation nonprofit’s executive vice president of public affairs. “We hope that the leadership shown by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature will prompt leaders around the globe to redouble their efforts to help save elephants for future generations.”
The new law is dedicated to the memory of the late John Fitzpatrick, a longtime conservation officer for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who spearheaded investigations of illegal ivory sales, helped institute new ivory-permit procedures, and raised awareness of the need for improving the protection of endangered species.
It follows a similar ban by New Jersey leadership earlier this month.
Items exempted under the new rules, which go into effect immediately, include 100-year-old antiques—with documented proof of provenance—that contain less than 20 percent elephant ivory, musical instruments manufactured prior to 1975, elephant ivory where transfer of ownership is for educational or scientific purposes, and elephant ivory where its transfer is to a legal beneficiary of a trust or estate.
Penalties for offenders are now higher, as well. First-time offenders face fines of $3,000 or twice the value of the article, whichever is greater. Second-time offenders will be fined $6,000 or three times the value of the article, whichever is greater. Anyone caught with articles exceeding $25,000 will be issued a Class D Felony, including up to 7 years imprisonment.