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Assembly En. Con. chair asks DEC to ban sale of ivory in New York

February 03, 2014
After receiving information that African elephants are headed for extinction and elephant ivory poaching is funding terrorism, Assemblyman Bob Sweeney wrote a letter imploring the Department of Conservation to prohibit the sale of ivory in New York.

"I am urging them to choose to protect elephants and to stop issuing licenses permitting the sale of ivory until there are provisions in place that will provide the elephants with the protections they need," said Sweeney, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation. "I think it is unacceptable that 96 elephants die per day to satisfy the vanity ivory market and to finance terrorism."

Sweeney D–Lindenhurst, held a hearing on January 16 to examine the link between New York's ivory sales and elephant extinction in the wild. The Assembly hearing included testimony from representatives of Tanzania and Botswana, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates that 96 elephants are killed each day in Africa which has resulted in a 76 percent decline in elephant population since 2002.

In addition, Sweeney voiced his displeasure that New York is one of the largest markets for ivory sales. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found the alarming levels of elephant ivory poaching in recent years proves the increased involvement of organized crime.

"Wildlife trafficking is increasingly associated with rebel and terrorist groups such as the Lord's Resistance Army and Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda terrorist cell in East Africa," said Tuvako N. Manongi, Ambassador for the United Republic of Tanzania.

The Elephant Action League, an independent organization looking to fight elephant exploitation and wildlife crime, estimates that Shabaab's monthly income from ivory at between $200,000 and $600,000.

"New York state must close the market that is driving the elephant to extinction and helping finance terrorism," Sweeney said.

  1. print email
    NY State Ivory Ban
    February 03, 2014 | 07:42 PM

    It's heartening news that Chairman Sweeney has written to the DEC with his recommendation, but his wording is a little ambiguous and I wonder if he or one of his staffers could please clarify whether he is urging a permanent ban on the sale of ivory, or a moratorium?

    The headline of this article says Mr. Sweeney is asking for a ban, but Mr. Sweeney wrote, "I am urging them to choose to protect elephants and to stop issuing licenses permitting the sale of ivory until there are provisions in place that will provide the elephants with the protections they need".

    Until there are provisions in place? What kind of provisions is Mr. Sweeney referring to (a worldwide, nation-by-nation ban, or a CITES ban, or better detection of illegal ivory being smuggled, or better enforcement of anti-poaching laws in Africa, etc.)?

    Does this mean that if NY State stops issuing licenses for the sale of ivory, it may resume issuing them if African elephant populations begin to recover? And will the DEC revoke all current licenses?

    Elephant advocates worldwide are keenly interested in a possible ban on ivory trade in NY State; could Mr. Sweeney please clarify for us? Thank you!

    Lori Sirianni
  2. print email
    February 03, 2014 | 07:55 PM

    I would like to have you clarify what you mean by not issuing licenses to ban ivory and waiting on having provisions in place.
    Does this mean a moratorium or a all out ban.

    Thank you,
    Judy Maxwell

    Judy maxwell
  3. print email
    Ban on Ivory
    February 03, 2014 | 08:51 PM

    Thank you so much for hearing our testimony and taking such decisive action! Chairmen Sweeney, and your committee, you have all truly made this the Year of the Elephant! Congratulations for being a game changer! The elephants thank you!

    Cynthia Newlin O'Connor
  4. print email
    Permanent Ban on Ivory Sale, Commerce, Resale
    February 03, 2014 | 11:49 PM

    To prevent the extinction of magnificent, intelligent, family oriented elephants, we must pass a complete ban on all aspects of the ivory trade including sale, collection, resale, is the only means of ending the holocost promulgated by poachers who are affiliated with organized crime and terrorism! Our legacy as compassionate human beings should NOT be one of extinction of these extraordinary, exemplary, amazing animals. I came back from vacation in the Dominican Republic solely to attend the hearing on 1/16/14. Great work !!! Now, we must follow through to set an example for NYC (where I was born and lived my entire life) for the rest of the US and the entire world!

    Helen LeBrecht
  5. print email
    February 04, 2014 | 08:52 AM

    Please put a permanent ban on ivory sales. It is an outrage that in a few years we have killed so many of these magnificent animals. Can you imagine Africa without elephants? We need to act now, time is running out. This cruel slaughter is also leaving orphans who are still dependent on their mothers and die of starvation and loneliness. Let us do the right thing!

    Diane LaPointe
  6. print email
    Permanent Ivory Ban
    February 04, 2014 | 10:32 AM

    I am hoping that New York will enact a permanent ban on ivory sales. It's too bad we can't go back in time and undue the damage done in the past. The only way we have is forward, and this ban had best be permanent, so no time shall ever come that allows a horror of this magnitude to begin anew. Thank you for your consideration.

    Marilyn Coussoule
  7. print email
    Ban on Ivory
    February 04, 2014 | 05:35 PM

    Chairmen Sweeney, Thank you to you and your committee for taking decisive action against the despicable ivory trade. We are all hoping that it will be the first of a wave and that our generation won't be responsible for the extinction of a keystone species. I do want to echo the concerns of a few other people here and say that I urge New York to commit to a total ban on ivory. We have seen great losses due to the grey areas associated with moratoriums. Again, thank you for setting such a progressive, compassionate example for the rest of the country.

    Tamara Birdsall
  8. print email
    my 1882 piano
    March 26, 2014 | 11:14 AM

    While I completely agree with Rep Sweeney about the necessity to control the sale of ivory in NYS, it is ill thought out. I own a piano built in Dresden in 1882, with 50 original ivory keys (in case you're counting, the instrument only has 85 keys). It is a stunning historic instrument, and complete with papers. Thousands of New Yorkers doubtless must have similar historic instruments that incorporate ivory. Preventing me from selling it or even giving it away (which I want to do in a few years) will do absolutely nothing to protect today's elephants. Could we have a little more thought about this please? Non-antique or any undocumented ivory, fine; but let's not destroy historic works of art in the process. What would you have me do: burn it?

    Jo Jesty
  9. print email
    Poorly conceived law will not end poaching
    March 26, 2014 | 11:15 AM

    The greatest irony of all within the proposed federal ban is the so-called "fat-cat loophole"¯. The news hasn't focused on this much, but one IMPORTANT clause in the new law would allow any American "hunter" to travel to Africa and slaughter up to TWO Elephants per year!

    Of course, you'll have to be rich and powerful like some fat-cat congressmen or Safari Club member or guys like that - AND you'll have to pay hefty fees for USFWS permits to massacre those majestic adult Elephants and import their huge tusks back to the U.S. But hey, what's $50k - $60k when you're having fun slaughtering elephants?

    Meanwhile, an unaware/innocent American tourist visiting China could easily buy a tiny little Elephant ivory bracelet made of LEGAL ivory in the LEGAL Chinese carving market and get "caught" with it in her suitcase when she gets to U.S. Customs. At that point she would be facing as much as FIVE years in prison, and fines & "restitution" that could bankrupt her (literally). All this, even though the ivory SHE had came from the HUNDREDS of TONS of legal "natural death" ivory that falls to the African floor every year.

    That's right, fellow citizen, a massive amount of ivory falls to the African floor every year, simply because Elephants don't live forever. The African Elephant has a natural mortality rate of 4% - 7% per year, depending on their location "" over the entire African continent it averages 5.5%. That amounts to about 25,500 Elephants that will die every year without a single one being "poached"¯.
    Since a large percentage of those natural deaths occur among older Elephants the bodies they leave behind will typically bear large tusks, and that "free"¯ ivory does not rot or biodegrade. The estimates among experts in Elephants and the ivory trade put that annual amount of renewable ivory at no less than 100 TONS and as much as 900 TONS. That's EVERY YEAR.

    If you really care about Elephants there are four VERY important questions you need to ask yourself, your friends, and your government:

    1) Why would the White House and USFWS be pushing a regulation to supposedly PREVENT Elephant deaths, but then sell permits to rich people allowing them to KILL Elephants... AND let them import the ivory back to the U.S.?
    2) With the U.S. deficit at $17.5 Trillion, and growing by $2.75 Billion every day, who will be funding the millions upon millions of dollars need to manage and protect African elephants in African nations so poor they can't even afford to feed their own children?

    3) What should the world do with the hundreds of tons of ivory that fall to the African floor every year worth hundreds of millions of dollars, since it won't rot and it doesn't biodegrade?

    4) Why not use the perpetually renewable resource of natural death ivory to end poaching, fund Elephant protection and conservation, and feed and employ millions of starving Africans?

    Thomas Wayne
  10. print email
    March 26, 2014 | 11:33 AM

    A ban will create a black market. African countries who have managed the herds will have no incentive to regulate the land and resources the elephants need to survive. The annual mortality rate of adult elephants is a little over 5%, about 20,000 that die of natural causes every year. What should be done with that 100 tons of ivory per year? If it were documented, controlled and sold to fund conservation efforts, even at wholesale prices it would raise over $100 million per year. The elephants could fund their own game management, Taxpayers and Conservation groups would save money and the people in Africa would benefit from the legal trade of a renewable resource.

    Linda Stone
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