Statement of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., on Agreement to Restrict the Purchase or Sale of Ivory

June 17, 2014

“I thank Governor Cuomo and the state legislature for strengthening laws to effectively ban the purchase and sale of ivory articles here in New York, and provide stiff new penalties for those who sell ivory from poached elephants. Today’s changes send a clear message that New York is closed for business to those who trade in the bounty of endangered and rare animals. The illegal ivory trade fosters corruption, encourages the brutal slaughter of majestic animals, and impedes sustainable development in some of the world’s most impoverished nations. Those who seek to profit from the sale of illegal ivory can now expect to face criminal charges more closely proportionate to the scale of their operations.”

Elephant tusks being sold as mass-produced jewelry and decorative items in New York help fuel a crisis claiming an estimated 96 elephants per day in Africa.  A major case prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in 2012 highlighted the enormity of this crisis.  Although defendants in that case possessed more than $2 million in contraband – representing all that was left of 100 slaughtered elephants – under existing law they could only be charged with a class E felony, New York’s lowest felony charge.  DA Vance and the Wildlife Conservation Society strongly supported the amendments agreed upon today, which create new class C and class D felonies for large-scale operations profiting from the sale of elephant ivory, and higher fines for repeat offenders.