Oklahoma zoo officials push bill to make ivory and rhino horn sales illegal in state

OKLAHOMA CITY — It would be illegal to sell ivory or rhinoceros horns in Oklahoma under a bill that brought Oklahoma City and Tulsa zoo officials to the Capitol on Tuesday, packing a tusk that would be worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market.

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said he introduced House Bill 1787 at the request of zoo leaders and out of concern for threatened elephants and rhinos.

“I’m calling on my colleagues of the Legislature to support this measure and to help us enact a law in an effort to close the market that sustains illegal poaching,” Shelton said. He said similar bills have been passed in several other states to complement federal statutes.

Dwight Lawson, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo, said 96 elephants are killed daily by poachers in Africa, bringing the population of the species, which was 1.2 million in 1989, to 420,000 today.

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