New York State Passes Historic Ban on Sale of Elephant Ivory and Rhino Horn

New York State Makes History: Sends Clear Message to Criminals Benefiting from the Killing off of Elephants and Rhinos

Legislation Elevates Penalties; Emphasizes That Poaching of Wildlife Leads to Security Problems in Communities Across the Globe

NEW YORK (June 20, 2014) – The Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Humane Society of the United States praised the New York State Legislature today for passing landmark legislation that bans the sale and purchase of elephant ivory and rhino horn. It now goes to Governor Cuomo where it is anticipated he will sign it into law.

The legislation amends the state’s environmental law to ban elephant ivory sales with only a few exceptions for antiques with small amounts of ivory, certain instruments made before 1975, and transfers for educational and scientific purposes or through the distribution of estates.

After a three-way agreement was reached earlier this week between Governor Cuomo and Senate and Assembly leadership, a two-house bill was introduced in the Senate and the Assembly on June 17: S7890 by State Senators Andrew Lanza and Tony Avella; and A10143 by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney.

Said Governor Andrew Cuomo: “With the passage of this bill, New York State has taken another step forward in the fight against the illegal ivory trade. We will not allow this dangerous and cruel industry to thrive in our State, and this bill ensures that by restricting the market for illegal ivory and adding tougher penalties for those who support it. I am proud that New York is taking this stand, and I urge government and community leaders across the globe to do the same.”

Said Assemblyman Robert Sweeney: “This legislation will protect elephants, which are being lost to the world at an outrageous rate of 96 elephants a day, all to satisfy the vanity ivory market and to finance terrorism. The enactment of this bill recognizes the significant impact our state can have on clamping down on illegal ivory sales in order to save elephants from the ruthless poaching operations run by terrorists and organized crime.”

Said Senator Andrew Lanza: “The illegal ivory trade is an international crisis in which 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2012 alone. Poachers who are supporting terrorism and the drug trade are acting with impunity helped in part by receptive markets in New York City and Asia. We can make a difference right here with this legislation which will lead to higher conviction rates and tough criminal sentences. I thank Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Sweeney, Senator Skelos, Senator Klein and all the conservationists and advocates who have given voice to this horror.”

Said WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs John Calvelli who also serves as the Director of the 96 Elephants campaign: “Today, the New York State legislature has made history passing a strong, balanced ban on the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn. Poaching is killing off our precious wildlife and sparking insecurity in communities. New York is the number one importer of ivory in the United States and it was clear we needed to take this action today. Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have shown global leadership on this issue and have taken a stand to protect these magnificent creatures. This legislation should now be replicated in state houses and capitals across the globe. Working with our partners and our friends in government we will continue on with this legislative blitz. The future of these iconic species hangs in the balance.”

Said Elly Pepper, Wildlife Advocate for NRDC: “The brutal and ongoing practice of slaughtering African elephants for their tusks may seem distant, but just recently we saw an ugly and vivid example of this practice as one of the world’s most recognized elephants was shot down in Kenya. New York State is the biggest market for ivory in the United States, which is the second-biggest market in the world. The state is doing its part to ensure that the world’s remaining elephants are not massacred for trinkets and trophies.”

Brian Shapiro, New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “We applaud the New York State Legislature for its leadership and overwhelming support. New York residents should take pride in this important legislation that protects elephants and rhinos, cracks down on wildlife traffickers and ends New York’s role in the deadly international elephant ivory and rhino horn trades.”

The legislation:
—Places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn.
—Authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue permits for the sale of the following items containing of made from elephant ivory:

  1. 100 year-old antiques comprised of less than 20 percent elephant ivory with documented proof of provenance
  2. musical instruments (string, wind and piano) manufactured prior to 1975
  3. elephant ivory where transfer of ownership is for education and scientific purposes including to a museum authorized by a special charter from the legislature
  4. elephant ivory where transfer is to a legal beneficiary of a trust or estate

Increases penalties as follows:

  • A fine of $3,000 or 2x the value of the article, whichever is greater, for the first offense
  • A fine of $6,000 or 3x the value of the article, whichever is greater, for the second offense
  • Class D Felony for any articles exceeding $25,000 (up to 7 years imprisonment)

The law shall take effect immediately upon enactment. License and permit holders may sell existing elephant ivory and rhino horn until current licenses or permits expire.

This state legislation will enhance federal efforts to tighten the ivory trade ban on a federal level. Large-scale poaching of elephants and trafficking in ivory presents enormous economic and security challenges across Africa and beyond. The illegal ivory trade both flourishes from and contributes to a climate of instability and lawlessness in many African elephant range states, in which humanitarian crimes have risen dramatically.

MARY DIXON, WCS: (1-347-840-1242;
STEPHEN SAUTNER, WCS: (1-718-220-3682;
MAX PULSINELLI, WCS: (1-718-220-5182;
KATE KIELY, NRDC: (1-212-727-4592;
RAÚL ARCE-CONTRERAS, HSUS: (1-301-721-6440)

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:;;; follow: @theWCS.

96 Elephants
WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In September, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign to amplify and support the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants” by stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand. The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective moratoria on sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—on the Web at

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