By Deborah Zabarenko
The United States will destroy its six-ton stockpile of elephant ivory as a way to combat wildlife trafficking, an international fight that often has law enforcement outgunned by well-financed crime syndicates, White House panelists said on Monday.
The ivory - raw and carved whole tusks and smaller items seized by or abandoned to U.S. agents over the last 25 years - will be crushed as part of a push to publicize the illegal trade that threatens wild elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, great apes and other iconic species, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
"This was shocking to me: wildlife trafficking has doubled since 2007, and it's now estimated to be the fourth largest transnational crime in the world," Jewell told a White House forum.
Fueled by increased global demand, especially in Asia, prices for items made from some endangered species have soared. Rhinoceros horn is now worth twice its weight in gold, said Jewell, adding that the United States is also one of the world's biggest customers for illegally traded wildlife goods.
"This crisis is not like anything that we have dealt with," Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a telephone interview before the meeting. "It's syndicated, it's well-organized, it's well-funded - and it needed a whole government approach."
TECHNOLOGY TO CATCH POACHERS
That approach was specified in an executive order issued by President Barack Obama on July 1 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/01/executive-order-combating-wildlife-trafficking ), asking U.S. agencies including Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council to work together to tackle the issue. More....