Oregon Ballot Measure Seeks to Protect Endangered Species from Poaching

Save Endangered Animals Oregon has announced a new political committee organized to qualify for a ballot initiative to prohibit the sale of products and parts from elephants, rhinos, lions, pangolins, sea turtles, sharks and other threatened species. The measure is designed to save these species from the threat of poaching by removing the economic incentive to kill them and sell their parts and products made with them within the state of Oregon. It is modeled after a measure on the ballot in Washington state this November and a similar law was signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown this month. If all three campaigns are successful, there will be no market for wildlife traffickers along the West Coast.

The coalition includes the Oregon Coast AquariumThe Humane Society of the United StatesWild Aid, the Kenya Legal ProjectInternational Fund for Animal WelfareDefenders of WildlifeBig Life FoundationEnvironmental Investigation Agency, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other organizations. The groups will begin collecting signatures in the coming months.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-3rd, one of three chief petitioners, said: “Poachers and traffickers exploit weak laws and regulations to sell ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species parts with low risk of detection or prosecution. Oregon should not serve as a market for these illicit products, and we must do what we can to avoid contributing to the crime and cruelty.”

Bruce Starr, also a chief petitioner and former Oregon State Senator, said: “Poachers can have ties to organized crime and terrorist groups and sell their products to buy weapons and hurt innocent people. They also employ cruel methods to kill a large number of animals at once, such as in one recent case where poachers poisoned a watering hole with cyanide. That is not in line with Oregonians’ respect and appreciation for wild animals.”

Tom Hughes, a chief petitioner and council president of Metro, which runs Oregon Zoo, said: “Every year, approximately 35,000 elephants are killed in Africa to supply the demand for their ivory. That is unacceptable to voters in Oregon who care deeply about species conservation and protecting wildlife around the world. This ballot measure will address the threats against imperiled wild animals.”

Scott Beckstead, Oregon state director for The HSUS, said: “We are actively supporting federal efforts to crack down on the international and interstate trade in ivory.  This ballot initiative can complement those efforts and contribute to a broad-ranging campaign to crack down on this inhumane and destructive trade.”

In 2014, more than 1,200 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone out of a remaining 29,000 in the wild. All seven sea turtle species are endangered, with three critically so. Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year for a variety of products, and rays are being threatened by a growing trade in in their parts as well. Pangolins, shy nocturnal creatures killed for their unique scales, are the most trafficked wild mammal in the world. 

Specifically, the ballot measure proposes to prohibit the purchase, sale, offer for sale, or possession with intention to sell any part or product of the covered animal species with reasonable, narrow exemptions. The 12 covered animal types are elephant, rhinoceros, whale, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, sea turtle and certain shark and ray species.

Evidence and seizure data suggest that ivory trafficking is linked to transnational organized crime and African armed militia with terrorist connections. Professional traffickers exploit weak enforcement controls to move illegal ivory across the globe. According to a report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme and Interpol, militias throughout sub-Saharan Africa likely bring in anywhere from $4 - $12 million from ivory sales annually.

The measure would go into effect on July 1, 2017. For more information and to get involved, go towww.saveanimalsoregon.com.

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