Protecting African Elephants, Right Here in Massachusetts

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The push to protect endangered elephants and rhinos from extinction is a priority and an emergency, which is why I filed a bipartisan bill this session to crack down on ivory sales in the state. As this editorial from the Lynn Item explains, the actions we take locally in Massachusetts have impacts felt around the world.

If we do not make a change, several species of elephants will be extinct in the wild in the next few decades. There are an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 elephants in Africa currently, down from 1.2 million 35 years ago. Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory – an average of one every 15 minutes, every day, for three full years.

This slaughter is driven by the 10-20 billion dollar a year illegal wildlife trade. Even though international trade of ivory had been banned since 1989, ivory smuggling is disturbingly common, resulting in a grey market. The Boston/Cambridge area is the 4th largest market for Ivory on Craigslist, meaning our state surely feeds into the organized crime and terrorist groups like al-Shabaab who attempt to capitalize on the ivory trade.

Fortunately, the law is a powerful policy tool we can use to cut off the demand for these majestic creatures’ tusks and horns. New federal regulations put in place by the Obama administration restricts interstate ivory trade, and my bill would mirror the federal regulations. California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York have already passed their own ivory trading bans. Oregon and Washington passed bans via ballot measure in 2016.

China, which was by far the largest ivory market in the word, accounting for approximately 70% of the poached ivory, has taken dramatic steps to end the ivory trade within China by the end of 2017. We can and we must do better to defend elephants and rhinos, and we can do it by taking commonsense steps at home.