Legislators in the Connecticut Assembly—members of a joint committee—have approved Senate Bill 20 to ban the import, sale or even possession of African elephants, lions, leopards, black/white rhinos and giraffes. The bill was introduced earlier this year by Senator Bob Duff (D), the majority leader in the Connecticut Senate.
The Joint Committee on Judiciary passed the bill April 22 by a vote of 31 to 5, with four members absent or not voting. The bill is likely headed for consideration by another legislative committee.
It is unlikely the bill’s drafters consulted with African wildlife managers or with United State Fish & Wildlife Service officials before introducing SB 20 because it will do nothing to protect wildlife and will only prohibit activity that conservation experts and biologists across Africa use as a tool for species recovery.
SB 20 ignores the benefits that American hunters, including many from Connecticut, bring to African wildlife. At least two of the species targeted in SB 20 owe their recovery to hunting.
In Africa in 1895, there were fewer than 100 white rhinos. Today, according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to hunting programs, there are an estimated 20,000 white rhinos.
Sustainable, regulated hunting programs are responsible for increasing the number of black rhinos from approximately 1,000 in the 1890s to more than 3,500 today. The IUCN reports that importation restrictions on species targeted by SB 20 such as the African elephant, black rhino, white rhino and African lion "could likely cause serious declines of populations." Nevertheless, the drafters of SB 20 aim to impose obstacles that are likely to undermine the conservation of these species.
Violations of the proposal would be considered a felony and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Sadly, Connecticut lawmakers are advancing solutions detrimental to African wildlife species and punishing law-abiding hunters in the process.