Celebrities, supporters rally to protect wildlife in Hawaii; house passes bill

Hawaii_event

Last week, IFAW staff, along with a coalition of partners and a group of celebrities and champions, including actress and IFAW ambassador Kristin Bauer van Straten, Hawaiian musicians Henry Kapono and Boom Gaspar (Pearl Jam), Maui business owner Lynn Fleetwood, and eco racecar driver Leilani Münter, were in Hawaii to raise awareness and support for SB2647 and HB2502 — a legislative proposal that would safeguard endangered wildlife by preventing the trade of their parts and products on the Islands.

Hawaii is one of the largest remaining markets in the United States for wildlife products like ivory. The bill is designed to eliminate this dubious distinction by protecting a suite of imperiled animals — ranging from elephants, rhinos, big cats, and pangolins, to native Hawaiian species such as monk seals and sea turtles — from commercial trade.

On World Wildlife Day, this coalition of wildlife advocates met with lawmakers to discuss the bill and its critical importance in protecting wildlife in Hawaii and around the world. Following our visits, we held a press conference to release the results of our new investigation, which documents a thriving ivory market in Hawaii.

READ: Crunching the numbers on Hawaii’s online ivory trade market

Afterwards, Kristin moderated an expert panel on wildlife featuring legislative supporters Representative Ryan Yamane and Senator Mike Gabbard, as well as Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, who have all been working hard to pass this legislation.

The next day, we gathered at the Blaisdell Center Concert Hall for a screening of the acclaimed documentary Racing Extinction. Nearly 1,000 people were in attendance including actor Jorge Garcia, a Hawaii resident best known for his role as Hurley on Lost and currently starring in Hawaii Five-0.

 

 

Following the screening, Kristin and I joined others, including Leilani — who stars in the film — for a discussion on the issues facing wildlife today and what Hawaii can do to help.

We then left Honolulu and made our way to Maui, where Lynn hosted an inspiring reception at Fleetwood’s on Front Street in Lahaina headlined by Mick Fleetwood. Impassioned by the cause, Mick spoke of his experience seeing elephants and implored the assembled guests to take action, which included Nickelback bassist and animal activist Mike Kroeger.

 

 

Lynn spoke of her time in Amboseli and how her life would be forever changed by the wildlife she encountered. We were serenaded by Kahuna Vene and resident bagpiper Roger McKinley, each bringing the message of hope and happiness for wildlife.

READ: Plight of elephants comes home to Hawaii through Lynn Fleetwood’s photograph show

Thank you to Kristin, Henry, Boom, Lynn, Mick and Leilani for joining us in Hawaii and standing up for wildlife.

Due in large part to their efforts, and those of the other assembled guests and local supporters, just this Tuesday, the Hawaii House of Representatives passed the wildlife trafficking bill out of the House Chamber with only one Representative opposing it, and 50 supporting it!  This landslide vote was definitely helped along by the huge show of support that the bill received last week in calls, emails, lobby visits, and positive media.  It’s great to see when such commitment from wildlife-lovers and supporters pays off.

 

#Hawaii: tell your legislators to support bill to ban trade of #wildlife products! www.HawaiiSavesWildlife.org

Posted by Pierce Brosnan on Monday, March 7, 2016

 

The bill still has some big legislative hurdles ahead before it becomes a law — as well as some troubling language exempting guns and knives that we need to fix —  but this was a vital step in the process, and a definitive show of support for the bill. 

We are getting closer, but there’s still more to be done.

--JF

If you are a Hawaii resident, take action: Ask your state legislator to support and vote for the bill.

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