By Jeff Roberts
Recently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made a powerful statement after pulverizing an enormous stockpile of ivory, 6 tons of it to be exact, in efforts to bring awareness to the seriousness of the declining African elephant population. The event was held at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge outside Denver, Colorado in mid-November. Elephant poaching is a global crisis, supported mainly by organized crime syndicates.
“We’re doing this to send a signal to the world that we need to crush the illegal trade in ivory and wildlife products in general,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe stated. “These magnificent animals are in great jeopardy because of the commercial trade for their parts.” The ivory was pulverized into powder and small nuggets using a rock crusher that was about the size of two dump trucks.
The U.S. is prepared to pay up to $1 million for information leading to the dismantling of the Laos-based Xaysavang Network, considered one of the world’s most prolific organized crime groups trafficking wildlife said John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State.
Black market workings of the Xaysayang Network pull in an estimated $10 billion annually, contributing to arms, narcotics, and human trafficking in countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.
Elephant slaughter numbers are difficult to stomach, with an estimated 30 000 deaths in 2012 correlated with the illegal ivory trade. There are only 500 000 elephants expected to be alive in Africa today. “Within 10 years, at the current rate of poaching, central African elephants will likely be extinct,” said Crawford Allan, the WWF illegal wildlife trade expert and a senior director at TRAFFIC, a wildlife traffic monitoring network. “We will see a very bleak future for elephants unless we can turn this tide right now.”
The destruction of ivory stockpiles can make waves that change the world. When Kenya burnt its ivory in 1989 it precipitated the ban on international trade in ivory that served Africa’s elephants well for twenty years. In the past 5 years we’ve seen a new surge of underground ivory trade, likened to the growing trend of social status emblems made from ivory, particularly in Asian countries.
The extent of the ivory trade isn’t just affecting elephants and the environment anymore either, with terrorist groups like the al-Shabaab (the suspected affiliates behind the Kenya mall shooting in September) supposedly being funded by the underground money from the ivory black market. Ivory is considered the “white gold” in the African value system. More....