Why New Jersey took bold action to fight wildlife trafficking.
During the Advisory Council meeting, the New Jersey delegation was first introduced by Jen Samuel, president of Elephants DC, a nonprofit working to end the ivory trade worldwide and advance elephant well-being. Ms. Samuel praised New Jersey for its "bold, fearless, and unwavering" leadership.
Ms. Samuel noted that the members of the delegation have impressive records of serving the people of the Garden State by advancing social justice, economic growth, and job creation while defending endangered species from extinction.
In their testimonies, Senator Lesniak and Assemblyman Mukherji emphasized the importance of the role of states in the fight to save elephants and end the ivory trade.
As Senator Lesniak testified, New Jersey's ban has made an important statement to other states, the federal government, and the world about "the importance of preserving God's creatures on earth from extinction."
"Our message [is] spreading throughout the country to other states," said Senator Lesniak. "We're sending a message throughout the world that we're doing our part, and we want you to do yours."
Assemblyman Mukherji provided a powerful reminder of the importance of New Jersey's ban in helping to sever the pernicious ties between wildlife trafficking and terrorism. "In New Jersey we are proud to have played a role in ensuring the future prosperity of these keystone species, while contributing to strengthening national security and cutting into terrorist organizations' profits," said Mukherji.
In fact, it was this connection that inspired New Jersey's lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum, as well as Governor Christie, to take action and pass the ban. Assemblyman Mukherji said, "It was of interest to a lot of people who didn't realize it back home that trafficking and poaching are so inextricably linked to funding the operations of Al Shabaab, the Lord's Resistance Army, Janjaweed and so forth - and that major ports throughout the United States are serving as hubs for the illegal wildlife trade."
Assemblyman Mukherji also explained why New Jersey chose to pass a full ban of all ivory and rhino horn sales, without any of the exemptions and loopholes that some have proposed in other states, and that currently exist in today's federal ivory regulations. He stated that a full ban is important "because enforcement has been so difficult and complicated by these exemptions."
"As we've seen time and again, including with a sting that resulted in the conviction of a major smuggler in our own federal district in New Jersey, [wildlife traffickers] have gotten so good at masking recently poached ivory and horn as fossilized or mammoth ivory, as well as ivory from other species not reached by the act," Assemblyman Mukherji stated. "That's why our state ban reaches all ivory and ivory horn from any animal. We hope that other states will follow suit."