We move forward, always.
Because, case after case shows us that we urgently need these laws on the books, even if not every element is ideal. The news last week handed us a crystal clear example. In a district court in Buffalo, New York, a 77-year-old man, Ferdinand Krizan, pled guilty to trafficking in elephant tusks bought from an auction house in Montreal, imported to New York, and then sold on, with others, to a buyer in Massachusetts. He also allegedly trafficked in narwhal tusks. New York has an ivory law, but Massachusetts does not yet.
As long as there are states that allow the sale of ivory, elephants (and, indeed, other species) are going to be killed and their parts will be laundered into this deadly trade.
We know that this happens often. In 2014, an antiques shop dealer in Philadelphia was sentenced to prison for smuggling elephant ivory from West Africa into the U.S., staining the ivory brown to make it look older and therefore pass it off as antique. A few years earlier, someone in Nantucket was charged with importing elephant ivory and whale teeth into the U.S. together, presumably as a means of covering up the fact that he was trafficking in illegal ivory.
These are, of course, only some of the incidents that we know about and that have been prosecuted. Presumably, there are many, many others that go undetected, where savvy criminals use the loopholes in the current legal system to ply their unscrupulous activity. We know that, often, the simple answer is the best answer-and that is to institute the strongest possible prohibitions on the trade in imperiled wildlife parts and products.
Since January 2012, more than 141,000 elephants have been killed in Africa, suggesting that the poaching crisis is, once again, escalating out of control. Every effort matters in the fight to shut down the ivory market-in every nation, state, and city. There are efforts at the federal level to address some of these concerns, alongside bills in states such asMassachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, Delaware, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. Successfully walking that tightrope in these states between ideal, unequivocal prohibitions and legislative reticence can mean the difference between life and death for animals who may be the victims of criminals who exploit current opportunities for trafficking.
We may not walk away with a perfect outcome, but passing a law-even one with exemptions-means we will have a basis for further progress. And, we will always seize every opportunity for progress when that means we take a step closer toward keeping wildlife in the wild.