Conservation, Animal Groups Defend Protections for Elephants, Rhinos

02 July 2018 | Center for Biological Diversity News Release

New York — A coalition of conservation and animal protection organizations has taken the first step to intervene to help defend New York’s ivory and rhinoceros horn ban against a lawsuit brought by antique traders.

New York’s law, enacted in 2014, bans the sale, purchase, trade, and distribution of ivory and rhino horn, but exempts certain products, including bona fide antiques and certain musical instruments. The antique traders’ lawsuit, filed in April in the Southern District of New York, alleges that the New York law is unconstitutional.

Concerned with the ongoing poaching crisis of both elephants and rhinos, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) are seeking to intervene to help defend the law, which protects these species by closing markets that provide cover for illegal trade.

“New York has the right to legislate for eliminating the ivory trade and preserving wildlife New Yorkers care deeply about,” said Rebecca Cary, a senior staff attorney with the Humane Society of the United States. “Efforts to dismantle the New York law would be a significant step backwards in elephant and rhino conservation.”

Demand for elephant ivory has skyrocketed in recent years with the most comprehensive survey of African elephants — called the Great Elephant Census — indicating that an estimated 144,000 elephants were lost in Africa between 2007 and 2014 alone, and populations are currently shrinking by 8 percent per year continent-wide, primarily due to poaching.

“By adopting this law, New York did its part to put the kibosh on the poaching crisis that’s pushing elephants and rhinos toward extinction,” said Tanya Sanerib, international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can’t let a few antique traders reopen the U.S.’s largest ivory market.”

Unfortunately, products alleged to be antiques can and often do provide cover for illegally trafficked ivory and rhino horn.

“If we are going to keep endangered species on the planet, we have to think of them as more than decorations or furniture. The dealers are clinging to a business model that puts these animals’ aesthetics over their preservation,” said Zak Smith, senior attorney and director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Wildlife Trade Initiative. “Their challenge to this historic ban is baseless, and we look forward to ensuring it stays on the books.”

“At this point in time, we need to be reducing demand for ivory — not increasing trade in these products,” said John Calvelli, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs, Wildlife Conservation Society. “The only way to effectively end the ivory trade that is fueling the systematic destruction of elephants throughout Africa is to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand.”


Kirsten Peek, the Humane Society of the United States, (301) 548-7793,
Lisa Caruso, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 717-8286,
Tanya Sanerib, Center for Biological Diversity, (206) 379-7363,
Mary Dixon, Wildlife Conservation Society, (347) 840-1242,

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