This week, the Connecticut Joint Committee on Judiciary met to consider a number of bills, including Senate Bill 925, legislation that would ban the import, sale and possession of commonly hunted species from Africa. After deliberation, the committee voted 29 to 5 in favor of adopting an amendment to lower the penalties included in the bill language. Originally, the bill sponsors pushed for felony convictions for violations of the proposed bill, but the new amendment will significantly lower that. The first offense will result in an infraction, unless it is concluded the violator acted in “good faith” such that he or she was unaware of importing, possessing, selling, offering, or transporting any big six African species. A second offense will result in a class B misdemeanor. Any person who repeats these violations will be guilty of a class D felony. Furthermore, any specimen of a big six African species and any other property or item that is seized shall be forfeited and, upon such forfeiture, destroyed if seized, for any of the above violations.
While this amendment represents a step in the right direction by attempting to not turn law abiding hunters into felons overnight, make no mistake, it is still extremely anti-hunting, anti-sustainable use bill that is void under federal law and negatively impacts rural African’s abilities to effectively manage their wildlife.
African countries and rural communities have repeatedly spoken out against restrictions on the import and possession of their wildlife. These countries and communities have described the costs they will incur in terms of lost income for conservation and reduced livelihood benefits if such restrictions are widely adopted. Connecticut’s ban of 6 African species would hurt, not save, wildlife (stamfordadvocate.com)
In 2016, the New Jersey legislature enacted an almost-identical law to SB 925, which prohibited the possession, import, and export of African elephants, leopards, lions, and black and white rhinos. The State of New Jersey was immediately sued, and the state was forced to concede that the law was preempted by federal law.
American lawmakers take up such legislation under the guise of wildlife protection and ethics, without consulting or even informing African officials and community leaders. SCI emphasized the detrimental impact that this legislation will have on conservation programs in southern Africa. Contrary to representations by the bill’s supporters, the species at issue are healthiest in the very countries where they are hunted and subject to lawful international trade. It is documented fact that the world’s largest populations of African elephant, leopard, lion, black and white rhino, and giraffe inhabit Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—the countries with regulated hunting programs that generate income and other incentives and result in more secure habitat and lower rates of poaching. In addition, these countries have developed successful conservation programs to encourage the rural communities who live side-by-side with wildlife to invest and protect these species, instead of competing with them.
Simply put, Senate Bill 925 is an unconstitutional, costly, and detrimental bill for wildlife and rural people in southern Africa and should be opposed.
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