S. 496, H. 772: An Act relative to ivory and rhinoceros horn trafficking
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Jason Lewis, Representative Lori Ehrlich
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture
Summary: These bills clamp down on illegal ivory and rhino horns sales by restricting the sale, trade and distribution of ivory and rhino horn within our state. It will ensure the Commonwealth doesn’t play a role in an unprecedented global poaching crisis by prohibiting the trade in these products.
Ask your legislators to end ivory and rhino horn trafficking in Massachusetts
Why are these bills needed?
- Wildlife trafficking is an escalating global crisis and is fueled in part by the U.S. ivory market – which is among the top few markets globally.
- Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory – an average of one every 15 minutes. All extant five rhino species are threatened with extinction, with merely 28,000 remaining worldwide.
- The worldwide illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007 and tripled since 1998, and Massachusetts plays a role in this market.
- Elephant and rhino poaching is a brutal and bloody practice – animals are chased with helicopters and shot down with military-grade weapons. Tusks and horns are harvested by cutting off the faces of the sometimes still-living animals. Babies are often killed for their tiny stubble of tusk or horn.
- Poaching is a national security issue – extremist groups and terrorist organizations are often involved in wildlife trafficking, using it to finance their military operations. Wildlife trafficking is among the top 5 criminal markets worldwide alongside narcotics, weapons, human trafficking, and counterfeiting.
- We may see extinctions within our lifetimes. Scientists estimate some populations of the African elephant will be extinct within the next few decades if poaching continues at current rate. Black rhinos have experienced a 96% population decline since 1970 with fewer than 4,800 members of the species remaining today.
- Poaching for ivory and rhino horns is the cause of this crisis.
- See the Boston’ Globe’s June 2014 article: Massachusetts sees brisk trade in illicit ivory
What would these bills do?
- Limit the ivory and rhino horn trade in Massachusetts to ensure the Commonwealth doesn’t play a role in illegal trafficking and help to stem an unprecedented global poaching crisis.
- Bring Massachusetts commerce laws in line with federal interstate commerce regulations. In 2016, the U.S. enacted a near-total ban on commercial ivory trade. However, the ban only applies to interstate commerce and doesn’t regulate trade within a state. Leaving the Massachusetts market open and largely unregulated and serving as a loophole to the strengthened federal law.
These bills strengthen state-level protections by largely mirroring the federal law and applying the federal standard to intrastate trade in Mass. Among other things, it restricts trade of most ivory products with exemptions for legally acquired products with a small amount (less than 200 grams) of ivory; legally acquired antiques over 100 years old; and musical instruments (containing under 200g of ivory).
- Impose heavy fines on traffickers and order the seizure of all illegal ivory and rhino horn products upon conviction.
- Establish the Endangered Elephant and Rhino Conservation and Education Fund from penalties assessed under the new law. This Fund will promote conservation and increase education and outreach programs for these species, as well as provide financial rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of violators.
- These bills would NOT criminalize possession of ivory currently owned by Mass residents or prohibit inheritance or noncommercial gifts.
New Jersey, New York, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada have all passed similar laws.
- NPR, Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ Sentenced To 15 Years In Jail In Tanzania, February 19, 2019
- National Geographic, Citizens Spur States to Ban in Ivory and Rhino Horn, April 6, 2015
- The Daily Item, Ehrlich, Clinton discuss the Elephant in the Room, Swampscott, April 18, 2015
- The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Sees Brisk Trade in Illicit Ivory, June 27, 2105
The bills are supported by: