Hawaii Moves to Ban Endangered Species Products

This past Tuesday, Hawaii's legislature joined states such as New York, New Jersey, California, and Washington in passing a law that restricts the sale of wildlife products made from endangered species. Under the new law, SB 2647, it will be illegal to sell products made from elephants, rhinoceroses, mammoths, hippopotamus, pangolins, tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, great apes, monk seals, walruses, narwhals and other whales, sea turtles, sharks, and rays.

This was a historic vote for Hawaii, whose unique geographical position makes it a gateway between the United States and Asia, where consumer demand for wildlife products such as ivory has increased in recent years.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and its partners recently conducted a six-day investigation in Hawaii that found 1,862 advertisements for specific wildlife products, totaling over 4,600 items worth some $1.2 million. With dozens of flights and ships entering its ports and airports daily from across Asia and the Pacific, Hawaii was the biggest remaining market in the U.S. ivory trade, and the pending passage of this law means that the top three U.S. markets (Hawaii, California, and New York) are now crossed off the board.

New Jersey (ivory and rhino) and Washington (a multi-species ban) also have stepped up in recent years.

Hawaii citizens offered unwavering support for this bill with a recent poll revealing that 85 percent of Hawaii residents and voters back legislation to ban sales of products that use endangered wildlife species. Additionally, the bill was supported by well-known celebrity advocates who penned an open letter in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week urging its passage.

Animal species around the world are being devastated because of demand for their parts and products. But state laws like Hawaii's are an important piece of the puzzle to end the poaching crisis. We have the responsibility to protect animal life and need to work together on every level to end the trade that is driving elephants, rhinos, and hundreds of other species toward extinction.

Jeff Flocken is a regional director for IFAW.

Posted by Jeff Flocken on May 06, 2016