AWI Files Brief in Support of New York’s Ivory Restrictions

Photo from Flickr by Diana Robinson
Photo from Flickr by Diana Robinson

Washington, DC—Defending New York’s move to curtail the illegal ivory trade, AWI filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief earlier this month in support of a state law restricting trade in ivory and rhinoceros horns. The act prohibits the sale, purchase, trade, or distribution of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns within New York, with certain exceptions. It also strengthens criminal and civil penalties for sellers whose actions are endangering elephant and rhinoceros populations worldwide.

New York passed the law in 2014 to target the most intractable problems associated with the global resurgence of trafficking in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. Earlier this year, a coalition of antique dealers filed a complaint in US District Court challenging the ivory law as unconstitutional.

AWI’s brief discussed the four primary reasons that the New York Assembly passed the law: (1) the poaching crisis, (2) the link between elephant and rhinoceros poaching and organized crime, militant groups, and terrorist organizations, (3) the difficulty in distinguishing between antique and new ivory, given the role that antique ivory plays in fueling modern poaching, and (4) recognition of New York’s prominent role in the US ivory trade, a situation that was enabled by weak state laws prior to 2014.

The brief also identified accomplishments achieved under the ivory law and described the law’s success in stemming New York’s formerly robust ivory trade. After 2014, New York experienced a drastic reduction in the number of ivory items for sale, falling from the single largest market in the United States for ivory and horn products to the third largest market. By 2016, there had been a 67 percent reduction in the number of vendors selling ivory in New York City, and a 98 percent reduction in the quantity of ivory for sale in New York City, compared to 2008 numbers. This demonstrates that the ivory law is an effective tool in reducing the ivory trade and promoting species conservation, which is essential to combating the current elephant and rhinoceros poaching crisis.


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