(New York)—All the animals protected by Cecil’s Law (S1883 and A4010), legislation drafted by international animal advocacy group Friends of Animals (FoA), are keystone species, so they play a crucial role in the way African ecosystems function. Without lions, leopards, elephants and black and white rhinos, the ecosystems would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.

That’s why state Sen. Tony Avella (D-11th) and Assembly member (D-87th) Luis Sepulveda are championing the bill, which would ban the importation, sale, possession and transportation of African elephants, lions, leopards and black and white rhinos, all threatened and endangered species, and their body parts in New York. They are urging New Yorkers to celebrate Earth Day by contacting their legislators to tell them to vote yes to Cecil’s Law so it can move across the finish line this legislative session. 

“By passing this legislation, the state will not be encouraging or abetting the continued demise of these threatened and endangered species by sport-hunting,” said state Sen. Tony Avella. “New York is the number one port of entry into the United States from Africa. With that comes an exorbitant amount of big game ‘trophies’ being imported into the country that celebrate the unconscionable killing of the Big Five African species. While New York might not always be the final destination of these trophies, it is their entry into the country.”

“These animals are important to ecosystems, yet they are being hunted down for sport. What we are trying to do is discourage that kind of behavior by New Yorkers,” said Assembly member Luis Sepulveda. “It is important we pass this law in New York for future generations. Preserving these animals for our children and future generations is important, and if society continues this practice [trophy hunting], we are going to lose these species who are part of our ecosystem. We have to make sure these species survive. ”

From 2005 to 2014, 159,144 trophy hunted animals were imported into New York. Of them 1,541 were African lion trophies; 1,130 were elephant trophies, plus an additional 84 tusks; 1,169 were leopard trophies; and 110 were white rhinos trophies plus an additional three pairs of horns.

Friends of Animals’ goal is to have trophy hunting go extinct because the trophy hunting industry is as grave and immoral as other things that occur because of the “almighty dollar”—from the sex trafficking industry and the illicit trade in “blood diamonds” to greedy, dishonest doctors profiting from the disease of addiction.

Money and greed may blind people to the severity of these atrocities—but those things certainly don’t make them ok. That is the bold message of FoA’s latest anti-trophy hunting campaign, “Money Doesn’t Make it Ok,” which includes an emotionally driven short film that confronts all of the above.

Social media components include Facebook and Instagram ads and art, as well as an animated gif featuring images of trophy hunters and a counter that brings awareness to the number of animals killed regularly by American trophy hunters. (Watch the film here)

“Justice arrives for threatened and endangered animals one animal and species at a time,” said Priscilla Feral, president of FoA. “We are targeting the motivations of vainglorious trophy hunters with educational and legislative remedies so well-heeled cowards who feel entitled to murder Africa’s wildlife are unable to ship the heads and carcasses back to adorn their walls of shame.”

American trophy hunters believe they are entitled to deny the world of such a grand animal like Cecil because they have plenty of cash to do so. They also perpetuate the myth that their money contributes to conservation, despite the data piling up that shows trophy hunting is economically useless. “What Palmer didn’t expect was the public backlash ensued, and our campaign is meant to harness that emotion and let the majority of non-hunting Americans know that they can use their money and power to make trophy hunting go extinct,” Feral said.

The importance of Cecil’s Law is that it recognizes trophy hunting remains one of the main reasons that Africa’s Big Five are heading to extinction. Americans make up the greatest number of trophy hunters travelling to Africa for the kill, particularly in countries where hunting safaris are most expensive.

“Domestic legislation like Cecil’s Law is vital to any hope of the long-term survival of these animals,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “There is no evidence that trophy hunting contributes to conservation in the natural range of these animals, but there is growing scientific evidence that the legal trade of trophy-hunted species actually enables the illegal poaching by providing poachers a legal market to launder their contraband.”

Darien,Conn.-based Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world. www.friendsofanimals.org