It would be illegal to sell ivory or rhinoceros horns under a bill that brought Oklahoma City and Tulsa zoo officials to the Capitol on Tuesday, packing a tusk that would be worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market.
Pieces of carved ivory are on display Tuesday at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. A news conference was held by Democratic state Rep. Mike Shelton, who is sponsoring a bill that he says is designed to help curb illegal poaching of wildlife in Africa, where several species are threatened because of the black market ivory trade.
Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said he introduced House Bill 1787 at the request of zoo leaders and out of concern for threatened elephants and rhinos.
“I’m calling on my colleagues of the Legislature to support this measure and to help us enact a law in effort to close the market that sustains illegal poaching,” Shelton said. He said similar bills have been passed in several other states to complement federal statutes.
Dwight Lawson, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo, said 96 elephants are killed daily by poachers in Africa, bringing the population of the animal, which was 1.2 million in 1989 to 420,000 today.
“The lack of enforcement and the lack of laws to preclude these sales make it essentially easy for this black market opportunity to fund all sorts of illegal enterprises,” he said.
To show the worth of ivory on the black market, Lawson brought with him a 20-pound piece of tusk sawed off a zoo elephant for safety reasons. This piece of ivory would be worth at least $30,000 on the illegal market.
He also brought a rhinoceros horn worth $25,000.