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Extensive Wildlife Trafficking Ban Takes Effect in Hawai‘i

July 8, 2017, 2:01 PM HST
* Updated July 8, 10:34 AM
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Sea turtle sunbathing at Anaehoomalu Bay / Image: James M Grenz

A law targeting the illegal wildlife trade in Hawai‘i has taken effect as of June 30, 2017, after passing the 2016 legislative session. The measure is “the most comprehensive U.S. state law targeting the illegal wildlife trade” according to a press release from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

Senate Bill 2647 (Act 125), sponsored by Senator Mike Gabbard, prohibits the sale, offer for sale, purchase, trade, possession with intent to sell or barter for any part or product of any species of elephant, mammoth, rhinoceros, tiger, great ape, shark and ray, sea turtle, walrus, narwhal, whale, hippopotamus, monk seal, lion, pangolin, cheetah, jaguar and leopard.

These animals are recognized as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Endangered Species Act. The law provides for continued exemptions for bona fide antiques, musical instruments, guns and knives, and traditional practices. It does not prohibit possession of these species of animals.

“I worked on this issue for a number of years after learning that a 2008 investigation identified Hawai‘i as having the third largest ivory market in the U.S., only behind New York and California,” said Sen. Gabbard. “Many may not be aware that globally, wildlife trafficking falls right behind, and often hand-in-hand with illegal drugs, weapons and human trafficking crimes. Act 125 now serves as a model for other states and nations to emulate.”

“Wildlife trafficking remains a high priority for enforcement,” said DLNR Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement Chief Robert Farrell. “We support any legislation that recognizes the importance of protecting species that are at risk of exploitation. Hawai’i is doing its part to be globally aware of this issue.”

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Enforcement of the new law was delayed until the end of June this year to allow individuals and businesses who possess wildlife products to lawfully dispossess them.

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During the last four years, several U.S. states have pushed for stricter laws on illegal wildlife trafficking including New York, New Jersey, California and most recently, Nevada. These states have passed laws against the purchase and sale of products made of elephant ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species. Washington and Oregon have enacted similar measures through ballot initiatives.

The newly implemented Hawai‘i law was supported by local residents and grassroots and national conservation animal protection groups including The Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, NSEFU Wildlife Foundation and the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, Vulcan Inc., International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International (HSI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

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