Citizens’ Guide to Initiative 1401, Trafficking of Animal Species Threatened with Extinction

Initiative 1401 would add state penalties for illegal trade in endangered animal parts, but supporters need to be careful they do not end up undermining effective market-based alternatives that lead to long-term solutions. The Initiative would add two new state-level penalties, for trafficking in items worth less than $250, and for trafficking in items worth more than that amount. The enforcement intent is to “eliminate markets and profits,” but sponsors admit demand for illegal animal products is growing anyway. Voluntary, market-based approaches have the advantage of seeking to reduce poverty and of being embraced by local communities. A market-based approach to conservation has been used to protect rhinos in Africa and sea turtles in Central America. Initiative 1401 does not have to be at odds with successful and promising approaches, and it should not be used to damage efforts that respect the economic needs of local people who can be responsible stewards of endangered animals.

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