Big-game hunters challenging New Jersey’s ban on trophy imports

In Conservation Force v. Porrino: A group of big-game hunters, taxidermists and a national hunting-conservation organization is challenging in New Jersey federal district court a state law that bars residents from importing lion, leopard, rhino and elephant “trophies.”

The New Jersey law at issue states: “no person shall possess, transport, import, export, process, sell or offer for sale, or ship, and no common or contract carrier shall knowingly transport or receive for shipment any part or product of: any specified African species,” that includes the African elephant, leopard, lion, and black and white rhinoceros.

Nearly identical bans apply under S978 to the parts or products of priority species, defined to include the African elephant, leopard, lion, and black and white rhino.

The state laws, according to the suit, were intended to make licensed, regulated hunting of Big Four game more difficult and less attractive to New Jersey residents by preventing them from bringing home a traditional “trophy.” They fail to exempt federally authorized or permitted imports of the Big Four intended to remain in the state, the complaint said. A New Jersey resident with a valid Fish and Wildlife Service import permit, for example, cannot continue to possess, import, or transport the permitted trophy in the state.

The suit argues that the New Jersey laws “undercut the public policy of sustainable use, which is intended to generate operating revenue for wildlife authorities to fund anti-poaching, wildlife recovery, and wildlife management; to incentivize local people to tolerate or value listed species; and to preserve habitat, among other things.”

John Jackson III, chairman of Conservation Force, said: “Hunters won’t pay [permit] prices unless they have mementos that they live with. It’s very, very important to them emotionally; it’s the most important piece of personal property they own.”

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the state bills, called New Jersey “a major hub for the importation and transportation of body parts of endangered species.”

“Our ban will send a strong message to those who would endanger the very existence of these majestic animals to avoid bringing their so-called ‘trophies’ into New Jersey,” Lesniak said. “Hopefully, they will give up the practice entirely.”

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