Why I-1401 Will Make a Real Difference in the Race Against Extinction

As the Director of the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology, my career has been devoted to developing cutting-edge scientific techniques to help us better protect animal species threatened with extinction. My work on analyzing DNA samples taken from confiscated shipments of illegal African elephant ivory has helped us pinpoint where the bulk of elephant poaching is taking place.

My work has provided a clear understanding of how serious is the elephant poaching problem. With 50,000 elephants poached annually out of a remaining population of 470,000 individuals, the scale of the slaughter is immense. Many other species are suffering a similar fate. Time is running out. The United Nations set the ambitious Sustainable Development Goal to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss?” What can we do here at home — in Washington State and across the country — to facilitate that goal? In Washington State, we have the opportunity to make a big difference this November by supporting Initiative 1401, a statewide ballot measure before voters this fall.

Initiative 1401 is carefully designed to help save endangered animals. The measure would prohibit the purchase, sale and distribution of products made from a list of 10 endangered species being exploited or poached to the point of potential extinction. The measure will be enforced by strong penalties, including up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the worst offenses. Up to $4,000 in fines for each offense will go into a fund to pay for enforcement efforts. The animals protected by I-1401 include: elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.

While the poaching and the cruel slaughter of these iconic animals primarily occurs in Africa —> Read More