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Joining the Fight: NY Bans Sale of Ivory Products

Aug 13, 2014 10:42 AM EDT

In the spirit of yesterday's World Elephant Day, the state of New York has banned the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory products, as well as rhinoceros horns, and stiffened the penalties for traffickers, according to reports.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation Tuesday to send "a clear message that we will not allow the illegal ivory trade to continue in New York," he said in a press release.

The new law, which was adopted by the Legislature in the spring, intends to stop the sale of illegal ivory products and crack down on poachers. Though there are a few exceptions to the ban, such as for "antiques demonstrated to be at least 100 years old and containing only a small amount of ivory." New Jersey's even tougher ban on the ivory trade was signed into law last week, Nature World News reported.

It also stiffens civil and criminal penalties for trafficking ivory products. The sale, trade or barter of ivory products will result in felony charges exceeding $25,000.

Popular demand for illegal wildlife products like ivory is prompting poachers to slaughter elephants by the thousands in exchange for a large profit. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, an estimated 96 elephants are killed every day to fuel the ivory trade. As a result, some species of elephants and rhinos are on the brink of extinction.

There were an estimated 1.2 million African elephants in 1980, but now the population is down to less than 420,000, the society estimates. And forest elephants in particular separate species from the savannah elephant, are at risk. There are fewer than 10,000 left, and at this rate, experts expect them to go extinct within the next 10 years.

A big question, NBC News reports, is whether countries highly involved in the ivory trade, primarily China, will take a stand against this cruel practice. Despite a ban on exports of ivory products and controls on the domestic trade, China is still the largest market for illegal ivory, and prices for the product have tripled since 2010. But for now New Jersey, and now New York - which is the largest ivory hub in the United States - are cracking down.

"Today, New York State is taking a stand against a dangerous and cruel industry that is endangering animals across the world," Cuomo said.

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