Model Legislation Would Ensure Better Tracking of Tigers, Discourage Illegal Sale of Tiger Body Parts
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak which would create a registration and reporting system for tigers held in captivity within the State of New Jersey in order to discourage the worldwide black market for tiger body parts was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 38-0.
“When it comes to social justice causes, like abolishing the death penalty, New Jersey has not only been a national leader, but an international leader,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “Today, we can once again take a stand by sending a message to other states, the federal government, and the international community that New Jersey cares. We care about protecting other animal species which share the planet with us. We care about the inhumane treatment of animals. We care, and we’re willing to do something about it.”
The bill, S-945, would require the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to administer a system in which private owners or zoos which own tigers would register certain information with the State. Under the bill, tiger owners would be required to provide their name, address and telephone number, the address and exact location where the tiger is kept, the birth date, weight and sex of the tiger, a description of any distinguishing marks and a digital color photograph of the tiger, a hair sample sufficient to meet any future need for DNA analysis of the tiger. Upon review and approval of an application, the Department would be required to issue a certificate of registration for the tiger, complete with a unique identification number, and the tiger’s owner would be required to have a subcutaneous microchip implanted in the tigers’ neck with the ID number as well as other identifying information.
The bill also stipulates that within five days of a tiger’s death, the tiger’s owner would be required to submit the tiger’s remains to a qualified disposal agent to remove the ID chip and dispose of the remains properly, and the owner would be required to submit a sworn affidavit to DEP detailing the time and cause of death, and the ID number provided by the Department.
“The penalties, registration and reporting requirements enshrined in S-945 will make it a much riskier business decision to breed tigers for slaughter and sale on the black market,” said Senator Lesniak. “It costs around $6,000 a year to feed and care for a fully-grown tiger, while the value of tiger body parts on the black market can be many times that amount. People who keep tigers in captivity for the purposes of black market profit are not likely to keep these majestic animals in a sanitary and humane environment, and right now can easily sell their remains to fuel an underground trade which also contributes to the wholesale slaughter of tigers in the wild.”
Senator Lesniak noted that the black market for tiger body parts, among other factors, has resulted in the animals being hunted to near-extinction worldwide. Over the last century, the world’s tiger population has fallen from about 100,000 to just 3,200 in the wild according to the World Wildlife Fund. Tigers are hunted, bought and sold not only for their teeth, skins and claws, but also for their body parts, which are used in many traditional Asian medicines.
Senator Lesniak added that the body parts of a single tiger can be sold for a sum of $10,000 or more on the black market. He also noted that, at the time of the recent tragedy in Ohio, in which animals escaped from a private nature preserve, criminals were seeking to steal lion carcasses in order to profit from the illegal trade of their body parts.
“We don’t often have an opportunity in the New Jersey Legislature to change the world,” said Senator Lesniak. “Today, we are blessed with just such an opportunity. This bill will have practical implications for New Jersey, but its symbolic value worldwide is much more important. Today, we can make a statement that New Jersey stands against the annihilation of tigers throughout the world, and that we will make sure that the illegal trade in tiger parts does not take place within our borders.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.