Planet Earth is losing its wildlife. Between 1970 and 2010 we lost 52 percent of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. At risk are iconic species of African megafauna; fewer than 28,000 rhinos, 40,000 lions, 3,000 tigers, and 880 mountain gorillas remain in the world, and from a populaton of 26 million elephants in 1800, African elephants today number about four hundred thousand. We’re driving elephants and rhinos into extinction to turn their tusks into trinkets, ornaments, and bric a brac, and regarding rhinos – to pulverize their horns into worthless cures. During 2010-2012 over 100,000 elephants were massacred by poachers, estimated at one elephant killed every fifteen minutes. If these trends are not rapidly reversed, scientists estimate the species’ extinction in the wild within the next few decades.
Beyond the agonizing cruelty of this massive slaughter, poaching is also a daunting security issue. Its run by criminal and terrorist groups greedy for the vast amounts of money the trade in ivory and rhino horn generates, to finance their crimes of terror. Wildlife trafficking is one of the most lucrative illegal global trades, up there with drugs, weapons, and trafficking in people. And, it does not only terroize animals but local communities and individuals as well, caught up in the mayhem and warfare.
Images of poachers mowing down wildlife with high tech military assault weapons shot out of helicopters, of helpless baby elephants wailing over the bodies of their dead mothers, have triggered global outrage over the atrocities inflicted on these sentient animals. Elephants display intelligence, emotions, and compassion – in other words, sharing those same traits that we humans believe are ours alone. To counter this rapidly escalating crisis, Representative Lori Ehrlich and Senator Jason M. Lewis have filed Bill H.1275, “An act to prevent trafficking in ivory and rhino horns”. This bill is part of a grassroots movement sweeping throughout the United States to stop the carnage. Recognizing the link between US consumers and the wildlife crisis in Africa, deeply concerned citizens are promoting laws banning ivory and rhino trade in their own states. Each state law that passes has a domino effect, establishing critical precedents for other states. Beyond their domestic domino effect, these state laws have a potential global domino effect, leading to country after country shutting down domestic ivory markets.
While China is rightly vilified as the massive force behind this current wave of poaching, driven by the country’s newly found wealth and purchasing power, the United States has the second largest ivory market in the world. As the Fish and Wildlife Service clamps down on the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade coming into the United States, the major loophole remains domestic markets driving the trade and the poaching that supplies it.
This bill calls for a ban on the sale, trade and purchase of ivory and rhino horn within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, It will close existing loopholes in federal regulations that allow the sale of what is called “antique ivory” or “pre-1973 ivory”, through which illicit ivory is laundered into the legal trade. It will NOT criminalize possession of ivory currently owned by Massachusetts residents or prohibit inheritance or noncommercial gifts. New York and New Jersey have already adopted laws prohibiting trade in ivory, and almost twenty more states are in various stages of similar legislation. By passing this bill, we will ensure that our state plays no part in the trade that is driving these animals into extinction, and, that Massachusetts will become part of a potentially powerful global force shutting down ivory and rhino horn markets.
Please help get Bill H.1275 approved by the state legislature by writing your state representatives and senators and asking them to support it in full, so that Massachusetts will both have no association to this egregious trade, and will contribute to the global effort to stop the poaching as part of the network of concerned states.