Elephants carved from illegal Ivory are displayed at an 'Endangered Species' exhibition at London Zoo in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A new law will impose strict limits on the New York State ivory trade, banning the sale of most items containing ivory and rhino horn, including many antique pieces.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly on Thursday and passed by the Senate on Friday. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign it this week.
"The illegal ivory trade has no place in New York State, and we will not stand for individuals who violate the law by supporting it,” Cuomo said in a statement during the debate last week.
Supporters of the law argue that the limits are necessary to minimize the state's role in an industry that is decimating endangered populations of elephants and rhinoceros in Africa as poachers seek to profit off the lucrative international black market.
Dealers in antiquities, however, fear that the law will criminalize a crucial element of their business, which involves trade in older items that happen to contain ivory from an earlier era. The purchase and sale of classic guitars with ivory pegs or old-fashioned pistols with ivory grips, they argue, does not endanger present-day wildlife.
The bill outlaws the sale of all ivory objects unless an item is both at least 100 years old and consists of less than 20 percent ivory.