By Nicole Rivard

Friends of Animals and New York state Sen. Tony Avella, flanked by supporters, stood on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan this morning to champion legislation that would implement a statewide ban on the importation, possession, sale or transportation of the remains of the five big game species native to Africa. The Africa Big 5 bill, which was drafted by Friends of Animals’ (FoA) Wildlife Law Program director Michael Harris and is the first of its kind in the United States, was introduced earlier this year and today was renamed Cecil’s Law in honor of one of Zimbabwe’s most beloved lions who was shot and killed by American hunter Walter Palmer back in July.

Cecil’s Law, which Avella will reintroduce during the next legislative session in January and which will soon be sponsored in the Assembly by Steve Englebright, would protect the African elephant, lion, leopard, black rhino and white rhino, all of whom are threatened by illegal poaching and sport hunting and are currently facing extinction.

“Unfortunately we had a situation very recently that exemplified why this legislation is necessary,” Avella said. “Cecil the lion was killed by somebody in this country who thought what he was doing was fun—who thought this lion’s life was worth paying for to have a trophy on their wall. If we pass this legislation we will stop this from happening because hunters will not be able to import these animals’ body parts through our ports or airports. 

“We’ve grown up as a society to recognize that killing animals period is bad, but killing animals who are endangered is atrocious. We are stewards of this planet and we share it with the animals. It’s time that we put an end to these hunters who seem to think that this is sport, that this is fun, without any sense of knowledge about the damage they are doing. How can we as stewards of this planet hunt a species to extinction? We are above that. We are better than that. And we are here today to say to the New York State Legislature we need to pass this bill as soon as the session reconvenes in January. I am proud to say that—I wish I didn’t have to do this—that I renamed the bill Cecil’s Law. Let us hope that some good could come out of this situation.”

When asked what the average person needs to do to help move the legislation forward Avella said New York residents should call their state senators and Assembly members and tell them you support Cecil’s Law. “Tell them that you want them to support it and that you want them to be a co-sponsor and that you want them to vote for it when it comes up in January,” Avella said. “If people throughout the state do that, we could pass this bill in the first session in January. This is going to be moved by the people of the state of New York.”

“Passage of Cecil’s Law by the state of New York would truly be ‘the shot heard around the world,’” said Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director for Friends of Animals. “Prohibiting possession of the African ‘big 5’ species in the state of New York, through which a majority of African sport-hunted trophies must pass upon entering the U.S., will be a serious deterrent to the remaining Americans who still find pleasure in such a heinous blood sport. It will also give law authority a tool to go after future Dr. Palmers, the widely reviled killer of Cecil the lion. Cecil’s Law will effectively shut down our state to a practice that has no place in a civilized society. I urge the NY legislature to swiftly pass Cecil’s Law in the 2016 legislature and we call upon Gov. Cuomo to enact it into law once it’s passed.”

You can take action today by contacting the NY legislature and urging them to pass Cecil's Law. Find a full list of legislative members here.