‘Cecil’s Law’: State pols push bill to protect endangered animals

The legislation, previously known as the “Africa Big 5” bill, was introduced earlier this year.

Continuing his fight to cut off New York as a channel to import endangered animal “trophies,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) Tuesday rechristened his bill “Cecil’s Law,” for the Zimbabwean lion killed by an American dentist.

“Unfortunately, we have a situation very recently that exemplifies why this legislation is necessary. Cecil the Lion was killed by somebody who thought this is fun,” Avella said, standing on the steps of City Hall, surrounded by signs of the stately lion. “If we pass this legislation, we will stop this from happening because they will not be able to import it through New York.”

The legislation, previously known as the “Africa Big 5” bill, was introduced earlier this year. If passed, it would ban the passage of body parts, or “trophies,” of the endangered African lion, elephant, leopard, and white and black rhino through New York ports and airports, including Kennedy and LaGuardia.

“New York is the number one port of entry from Africa. By shutting down New York, we’re majorly deterring trophy hunters,” said Edita Birnkrant, campaign director for Friends of Animals, an organization that helped draft the bill. “A disproportionate number of trophy hunters are American.”

Cecil was killed last month by a Minnesota dentist, sparking widespread outrage. Birnkrant said the incident was a tragedy, but also doubled as an opportunity to shine a “spotlight on trophy hunting.”

She added: “We want to let people know there’s a lot of other Cecils out there.”

The lion’s death seemed to wake up the public, said Joyce Friedman, the NYC coordinator for the Humane Society.

“We would like New York to lead the way to stop the importation, and the killing,” she said.

The bill is set to go to a vote when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“When we pass bills in New York, it sends a very strong message to the rest of the world that New York doesn’t tolerate this,” Birnkrant said. “And to set a precedent in New York helps make it easier for others to do the same.”

CARLA SINCLAIR | Special to amNewYork