TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie is proposing changes to legislation that would ban importing or exporting big game trophy animals in New Jersey.

Christie conditionally vetoed the legislation on Monday, saying he would support the ban on animal parts, including African lions, but with changes.

Democratic Sen. Ray Lesniak, who sponsored the legislation, embraced the changes.

Lesniak said the law will go into effect later this month after the Legislature adopts Christie's recommended changes. Those who violate the law will be guilty of a third-degree crime and face fines of up to $75,000.

"New Jersey is a major hub for imports and transportation of body parts of endangered species. Our ban will send a strong message to those who would endanger the very existence of these majestic animals to avoid bringing their 'trophies' into New Jersey and better yet, give it up entirely," Lesniak said Monday.

Christie says he is concerned about existing owners of big game trophies being required to register with the state or face daily fines and is instead proposing a prospective ban.

He also raised a concern that the ban could affect out-of-state residents bringing in trophies under federal permits and proposes the ban cover only animals brought into New Jersey.

The legislation comes in response to the killing of Cecil, a Zimbabwean lion, whose death sparked protests.

In his conditional-veto message, Christie says he "will endorse reasonable measures that help protect threatened species."

"Of course, no state legislation could ever by itself outlaw trophy hunts conducted overseas," he added. "There are significant questions whether such bans help or actually hurt wildlife conservation. If these bills are returned to me as I propose, however, we can be confident that the body parts of endangered animals will no longer be welcome in New Jersey."

Contributing: Sergio Bichao

Related video:



Sign up for the Newsletter

Get the best of delivered to your inbox every day.