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New Hawaiʻi Law Bans Wildlife Trafficking

July 4, 2017, 9:14 AM HST (Updated July 5, 2017, 1:28 PM) · 0 Comments
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As the “endangered species capital of the world,” Hawai‘i knows first-hand the devastating impacts of losing significant and iconic native species. Now, state have taken a historic step in helping to prevent the further loss of critically endangered species within its own borders and abroad.

Photo credit: Wildlife Conservation Society.

Senate Bill 2647 (Act 125), sponsored by Senator Mike Gabbard, is described as the most comprehensive US state law targeting the illegal wildlife trade.

The bill prohibits the sale, offer for sale, purchase, trade, possession with intent to sell, or barter for any part or product of any species of elephant, mammoth, rhinoceros, tiger, great ape, shark and ray, sea turtle, walrus, narwhal, whale, hippopotamus, monk seal, lion, pangolin, cheetah, jaguar, and leopard, all identified as threatened with extinction by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Endangered Species Act.

The law does not prohibit the mere possession of such items.

While the bill passed in the 2016 legislature, enforcement of the law was delayed until June 30, 2017, to grant individuals and businesses with wildlife products in their possession time to lawfully dispossess of the items. The law also provides continued reasonable exemptions for bona fide antiques, musical instruments, guns and knives, and traditional cultural practices.

“I worked on this issue for a number of years after learning that a 2008 investigation identified Hawai‘i as having the 3rd largest ivory market in the US, only behind New York and California. Many may not be aware that globally, wildlife trafficking falls right behind, and often hand in hand with illegal drugs, weapons and human trafficking crimes. Act 125 now serves as a model for other states and nations to emulate,” said Senator Mike Gabbard.

“Wildlife trafficking remains a high priority for enforcement. We support any legislation that recognizes the importance of protecting species that are at risk of exploitation. Hawai’i is doing its part to be globally aware of this issue”, said the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement Chief Robert Farrell.

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In the past four years, a number of states across the US have pushed for stricter laws to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking. New York, New Jersey, California and most recently Nevada have each passed laws prohibiting the purchase and sale of products made with elephant ivory and rhino horn and other imperiled species. Washington and Oregon enacted similar measures through ballot initiatives.

The Hawai‘i bill was supported by dozens of grassroots and national conservation and animal protection groups including The Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Council for Hawaii, NSEFU Wildlife Foundation and the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, Vulcan Inc., International Fund for Animal Welfare , Humane Society International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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