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Toss the Tusk: Washington Takes a Stand Against Wildlife Trafficking

By: Alejandro Grajal, PhD, President and CEO, Woodland Park Zoo

Illegal wildlife poaching is one of the leading threats facing endangered species. Experts estimate the sale of products harvested from endangered species (items such as tusks, pelts, horns, and body parts) on the black market to be in the billions of dollars annually. One of the most effective ways to end the bloody practice of killing endangered species is to enforce bans on wildlife trafficking. That is exactly what voters in Washington state did when they passed I-1401 in 2015 with more than 70% of the vote. 

Watch video of the press conference:

Thanks to voters, our state enforcement officials at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have the authority to prohibit and prevent the sale of animal parts from endangered species such as elephants, rhinos, pangolins, tigers, marine turtles and others. I am proud of their efforts and those of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate and prosecute traffickers in our state. Puget Sound is home to some of the largest trading ports in the world, which makes it a ripe target for wildlife trafficking smugglers. Thanks to investigators at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, including specially-trained sniffer dog K9 Officer Benny, our state is working to end demand for these products and shut down illegal trafficking operations in our state. 

Benny sniffs out a sculpture in his honor at the wildlife trafficking display near Assam Rhino Reserve.
Woodland Park Zoo is proud to partner with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to accept wildlife products from the community that are now illegal to sell with no questions asked. Our “Toss the Tusk” event from 10am to 2pm this Saturday, April 6th will help anyone in the midst of their spring cleaning comes upon antiques, tools, or materials made from ivory, hides, or other animal products and doesn’t know what to do with them. Woodland Park Zoo will take any items we receive and turn them over to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for destruction or training purposes.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson with Woodland Park Zoo CEO Alejandro Grajal prior to the press conference on wildlife trafficking. Behind them, Taj and Glenn are enjoying a morning bamboo snack in support of saving wildlife.
Thank you to everyone who is helping Woodland Park Zoo and Washington state take a stand against wildlife trafficking by ending demand for these products and enabling enforcement to stop poachers and their affiliates from killing endangered species in the wild.

Join us at Toss the Tusk: Saturday, April 6, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. at the south entrance and Hippo parking lot.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson spoke at a press conference April 3 at Woodland Park Zoo to invite the public to dispose of items made from endangered animal parts, such as trinkets shown below, illegal to sell in the state.
Examples of items made from endangered animal parts were on display to educate about threats to wildlife.
Woodland Park Zoo invites the community to participate in a secure and legal way to dispose of ivory, pelts, or other animal artifacts or trinkets made from endangered animal parts illegal to sell in the state. Items will be accepted one day only—no questions asked. To learn more, visit

Laws protecting endangered wildlife work!

On April 2, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the state’s first-ever criminal charges under a voter-approved initiative banning the sale or transfer of products made from certain endangered species. Ferguson separately charged two individuals with one count each of first-degree unlawful trafficking in species threatened with extinction for allegedly selling items containing elephant ivory using online listings.

The charges are the first under the Washington Animal Trafficking Act (WATA), which was created by voter-approved Initiative 1401. More than 70 percent of Washington voters approved I-1401 in 2015. The law took effect in 2016. WATA makes it a felony to sell, purchase, trade or distribute parts of specific endangered or vulnerable species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, pangolin, marine turtle, shark or ray.

Example of an item confiscated by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife detectives.
Under WATA, it is a felony to sell, purchase, trade or distribute parts of specific endangered or vulnerable species. More information about the Washington Animal Trafficking Act is available here.

The billion-dollar black market trade in endangered species is propelling iconic animals towards extinction. When Washington voters took a stand against illegal wildlife trafficking by passing I-1401, they provided more than hope — they gave teeth to enforcement measures allowing us to stop this practice in our state. Ending wildlife trafficking here will have ripple effects throughout the entire world and help us save species in the wild. We applaud the Attorney General’s efforts to punish those who profit from the senseless killing of endangered animals.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson gets up close with greater one-horned rhinos Taj and Glenn at Assam Rhino Reserve.