By Bruce Finley
A growing stash of more than 6 tons of ivory from slaughtered elephants, heaped in a warehouse north of Denver, is about to be destroyed as part of a new U.S. push to combat illegal wildlife trafficking worldwide. Publicly crushing the smuggled tusks and carvings will be the first act to end what has become a $10 billion illegal industry with security implications officials liken to those of illegal drug dealing.
"Our experience is that the only way to end this trade is to get international support. That's the goal of what we're doing with this crush," said Steve Oberholtzer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special-agent-in-charge based in Denver, who is lining up rock-grinders to pulverize the ivory in October.
African governments already have destroyed some ivory seized from poachers, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Monday at a White House forum where the initiative was launched. "The U.S. supports these actions, and we want to make sure we are doing the same."President Barack Obama on July 1 issued an order to combat the killing of protected wildlife, stop the trafficking, and reduce demand for illegal rhino horns and ivory. Members of a newly created advisory council sketched a broad approach of enlisting governments, companies and nonprofits worldwide.
Beyond destroying ivory, U.S. officials said they'll give $10 million to help fight poaching in Africa and will try to persuade Asian governments to outlaw trinkets and other products made from elephant ivory. Tactics being considered include use of cellphone technology to monitor elephants, social media campaigning in China and cooperation with companies such as eBay to curb commerce.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said U.S. intelligence agencies recently found that militant groups in Africa, including al-Shabab in Somalia, the Janjaweed in Sudan and Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, have turned to illegal ivory trafficking for revenues. More....