Washington voters looked far beyond the state’s borders Tuesday, embracing a measure to help stem the slaughter of African elephants, lions, sharks and other imperiled species around the world.
Initiative 1401 won in every county and led statewide 71 to 29 percent.
“Tonight’s victory is a step forward in the race against extinction,” said a statement from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen, who bankrolled the initiative with $2 million.
The new anti-poaching law is the nation’s most comprehensive. It will make it illegal to buy, sell, trade or give away — except through inheritance — most items made from elephant ivory or parts from dozens of other species, including tigers, sea turtles, cheetahs, spiny anteaters and rays.
The only exceptions are certain musical instruments and antiques at least 100 years old that contain less than 15 percent by volume of ivory or other animal parts. Ivory collectors and antique dealers objected, but there was little organized opposition.
Federal laws and treaties already make it illegal to import most ivory and threatened wildlife. But conservationists argued that as a major port state, Washington needed to strengthen penalties, crack down on in-state commerce and help eliminate markets that drive trafficking.
The most egregious violations will be punishable by up to five years in prison and $14,000 in fines.
Similar laws have been enacted in California, New York and New Jersey, and an effort is under way to get an initiative on Oregon’s ballot next year.