For Immediate Release
April 6, 2015
Mike Harris, director, Wildlife Law Program;
Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director, Friends of Animals; 917.940.9725;


NY Sen. Avella to introduce bill drafted by FoA that bans import/possession/sale of African species


On Wednesday, April 8, at noon on the steps of City Hall, NY state Sen. Tony Avella will introduce a historic bill, drafted by Friends of Animals’ (FoA) Wildlife Law Program director Michael Harris, that would ban the import, possession, sale or transportation in New York of five species of animals native to Africa.


The legislation 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.


“The primary reason that each of these species is facing extinction is human sport hunting,” Harris said. “Many of these hunts are purchased by Americans, and the trophies are imported into or through the state of New York. Domestic legislation like that being proposed today is vital to any hope of long-term survival of these species.”


Harris pointed out that there is growing scientific evidence that the legal trade of trophy-hunted species actually enables the illegal poaching by reducing the stigma associated with killing these animals and by providing poachers a legal market to launder their contraband. One example is South Africa, home to the second largest black rhino population in the world, which received permission by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to sell permits for trophy-hunted rhinos in 2004. The country has since seen a marked rise in illegal rhino poaching, with the World Wildlife Foundation reporting that rhino poaching has increased 5,000 percent since 2007.


“Sadly, too many Americans continue to see sport-hunting as romantic, or for that matter as ethical,” said Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director for Friends of Animals. “As Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, acknowledged just recently, Americans make up a disproportionate number of those who continue to travel to Africa to hunt these animals. Until we can get national bans put in place to reduce the number of sport-hunted African big 5 species brought into this country, it is vital that state’s like New York, where a large number of these trophies are imported into because JFK is a major point of entry from Africa, take action on their own.”


Birnkrant added that laws like the one being proposed are also needed to respond to the rhetoric of the hunting community that hunting can be a conservation tool to protect African wildlife—a topic that made headlines last year when Corey Knowlton won the Dallas Safari Club’s auction for a black rhino hunting permit.


“Hunters argue that without sport hunting, African governments would not have any money for conservation,” Birnkrant said. “In truth, sport hunting only further imperils African wildlife. Sport hunting and the continued importation of sport-hunted species encourages people to believe that these species are not endangered, that their parts should be highly desired or that legal restrictions on their taking and possession can be disregarded. It reduces the stigma associated with killing these animals, increases government and private corruption in these poor nations, and most importantly, it spurs poaching by allowing illegal killing to be disguised as lawful sport-hunting.”


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