Sunday, January 10, 2016

NJ Bill To Ban "Trophy Animals" in State Passes Unanimously

A bill authored by Senator Raymond Lesniak that would prohibit the importation, sale and possession in New Jersey of “trophy animals” that are threatened with extinction, expanding the current list of banned species to include the African lion, among other endangered species was approved by the Senate this month with a vote of 31-0.

“Trophy hunting of exotic and endangered species is a cruel and inhumane practice that not only threatens the extinction of wild animals throughout the world but selfishly affects other species in the ecosystem,” said Senator Lesniak. “It is an elite hobby and the United States is the largest market. Killing these animals so that they can be stuffed and mounted is not a practice that should be condoned or allowed.”

The bill, S-3416, would amend the “Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act” to expand the list of protected species to include those appearing on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource’s Red List of Threatened Species, and those listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. These contain additional species, such as the lions, leopards and elephants, which are not currently listed on the state or federal lists.

“The international community has worked together to protect and preserve species that have become increasingly endangered,” said Senator Lesniak. “This is a moral imperative as well as an environmental priority. We need to respect and value wildlife throughout the world and promote conservation efforts.”

The bill would exempt wildlife that was lawfully possessed prior to the date of enactment and wildlife that is being used or displayed for scientific, zoological, or educational purposes, for reproductions in captivity, or for other special purposes authorized by the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Under the bill, violators would be subject to a crime of the third degree, with a criminal fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, a civil penalty of up to $25,000, and a civil administrative penalty of up to $25,000 per day.

Senator Lesniak is also the sponsor of companion legislation, S-3146, that would prohibit the importation of these animal parts through any airport or port facility owned or operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Under the bill, which will be voted on next Monday, any Port Authority officer would have the authority to enforce the prohibition and seize any item used in connection with the violation of the prohibition.

Every year hundreds of hunters from North America and Europe travel to Africa to participate in what are known as “big-game” hunts for exotic and dangerous animals such as lions, elephants, and rhinoceroses. As a result, occasionally these hunters from North America or Europe engage in the illegal poaching of these animals and attempt to bring their “trophies” back with them when they return from their trips.

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