New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak wants to establish the “Task Force on the Illegal Trade and Inhumane Treatment of Endangered and Exotic Animals” to develop recommendations to protect endangered species and avoid the exploitation of exotic animals.

Legislation he’s sponsoring to create the panel was unanimously approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee today.

The resolution would create a six member task force. It stipulates that the chair of the task force should be someone with significant managerial experience at the Department of Environmental Protection or the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and that three other members must represent nonprofit organizations Big Cat Rescue, the EcoHealth Alliance, and the Humane Society of the United States.  The final two members would be required to be public members who do not hold elective office, and who have substantial knowledge and expertise related to endangered and exotic animals.

“As an ethical society, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our natural environment, and that includes preserving species of animals that are on the brink of extinction,” explains Lesniak. “Unfortunately, there are far too many incidents in this world of over-hunting, of inhumane practices and of outright exploitation of and cruelty towards rare and exotic animals. If New Jersey can do something to slow down the black market trade that is promoting inhumane treatment and pushing animals into extinction, then we should by all means do it.”

The task force would be required to evaluate the permitting, registration and reporting of all endangered species and exotic animals, and make recommendations for a comprehensive approach to curtail the illegal trade and inhumane treatment of such animals. The task force would be required to submit a report containing its findings and recommendations within 180 days of first organizing to the presiding officers of each legislative chamber, and to the minority leaders in each chamber.

The measure is in response to Governor Chris Christie’s conditional veto of Lesniak’s legislation which would have created a registration system for tigers in order to combat the illegal trade of tigers and tiger body parts in New Jersey. In his veto message, Christie said he wanted to create a more comprehensive approach to dealing with the issues facing exotic and endangered animals in New Jersey. Lesniak says he agrees that a more comprehensive approach is needed, but empanelling a task force through the Legislature is a better solution than tapping existing cabinet members to create a plan of action.

Lesniak explains, “While I agree with the Governor in theory on the need for a comprehensive plan of action to protect all endangered and exotic animals, I believe this approach is a better way to go.”