New Mexico lawmaker proposes bill to protect exotic animals

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A state lawmaker is trying to protect exotic animals around the world by cracking down on what people buy and sell in New Mexico.

Sen. Mimi Stewart says New Mexico is just miles from a major international hub where products that come from endangered animals are smuggled into the U.S.

From elephants and lions to marine turtles, Sen. Stewart says New Mexico, like many other states, doesn’t have a law on the books that punishes people who trade products made from animals facing extinction. The senator adds that the majority of this crime, like people selling rhino horns or shark skin, could be linked to terrorist organizations making big money.

She was inspired to sponsor the bill by a national group she’s a part of, but says it directly applies to our nearby border city.

“El Paso’s the third largest port in the U.S. for wildlife trafficking issues,” Sen. Stewart said.

If the bill passes and someone is caught selling or buying endangered animal parts, the first fine is up to $5,000, or twice the value of the product, whatever is greater. The fine for an offender caught a second time is $25,000 or three times the value.

Now, this bill would not apply to antiques, or native tribes for cultural or religious purposes.

This is not the only wildlife related bill on the table this session. Another lawmaker wants stricter penalties for people who break New Mexico hunting laws.

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