Washington Becomes First State to Crack Down on Illegal Wildlife Trafficking by a People's Vote

Washington residents have spoken loud and clear, overwhelmingly approving statewide Initiative 1401 with 71% of the vote on Tuesday. Washington is now the first state in the country to successfully ask voters to create new penalties under state law for those caught trafficking in products made from key endangered species.


I-1401 is a Washington State ballot measure that is designed to help save animals threatened with extinction. The measure would prohibit the purchase, sale, and distribution of products made from a list of 10 endangered animals being exploited to the point of potential extinction, and will be enforced by strong penalties. The animals protected by I-1401 include elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.

"We are thrilled with the level of support tonight from voters. I-1401 is rolling up huge margins all across the state," said Yes on I-1401 campaign manager Stephanie Ervin. "Tonight's election returns are a testament to the incredible effort over the past months by our deep coalition of conservation leaders, our dedicated volunteers and the public's commitment to help save animals facing extinction. The strong election result tonight will bolster efforts across the country and around the world to crack down on the marketplace for products made from endangered species, giving hope to those who work everyday to ensure that majestic creatures like elephants don't disappear from the wild forever."

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Elephant family in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, August 23, 2015. (image: John Piekos/Flickr)

"This victory is a step forward in the race against extinction," said philanthropist Paul G. Allen. "Thanks to the wisdom, compassion and determination of Washington voters, state authorities now have stronger tools to crack down on the illegal trade in endangered animal parts, which will help us save some of Earth's most iconic creatures. But our work is not done. Because even as we were casting our ballots to pass I-1401, poachers in Africa continued to kill elephants to harvest their tusks, and illegal fishing crews slaughtered countless sharks, just for their fins. So our fight for a more humane planet continues. I-1401 is a model that other states can follow, and I hope they will."

In the two-week run-up to Election Day, the Yes on 1401 field team knocked over 12,000 doors and made over 20,000 calls in the Seattle area. In addition, the field effort included 57 volunteers completing over 142 Get-Out-The-Vote shifts.

"Washington voters have had their say and determined that the state will be no safe haven for people who want to sell trinkets, potions, and other endangered species' body parts," said Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "The animals need their tusks, horns, heads, and hides more than we do, and this is a high-water mark for state involvement in the global effort to crack down on wildlife trafficking."

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There are as few as 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild. The world has lost 97 percent of wild tigers in just over a century, due to poaching, retaliatory killings and habitat loss. (image: Art G./Flickr)

"Conserving the world's wildlife is at the core of the work we do every day at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park," said Gary Geddes, Zoological and Environmental Education Director for Metro Parks Tacoma, oversees Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. "We are deeply committed to doing everything we can to save endangered species from extinction and stop the senseless slaughter of elephants, tigers, sharks and other animals around the world. We thank Washington voters for strengthening state laws on the illegal trafficking of endangered species products and leading the way for other states to follow."

"Washington deeply values our shared commitment to conservation," said Mark Plunkett, Seattle Aquarium Conservation Manager. That's why we are so proud that voters have spoken loudly and clearly as the first state in the nation to pass protections for endangered species at the ballot box. Within the next decade or sooner, some of the planet's most precious and endangered species may face a critical tipping point toward extinction. By strengthening protections against trafficking in products from these increasingly endangered animals, we can help to save sharks, manta rays and sea turtles, and protect our ocean life."

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