By Emmarie Huetteman
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service will destroy six tons of illegal African elephant ivory next week that it has been stockpiling since the ’80s, officials said on Tuesday.
Blaming increased demand for a devastating rise in poaching, largely by organized crime syndicates, members of a task force created by President Obama told reporters in a briefing at the National Press Building that they wanted to send a message of zero tolerance and reduce the appeal of ivory, rhinoceros horns and other illicit animal products.
“By destroying our domestic stocks of ivory, we send a very clear signal that these illegally traded products should not be perceived as items of value,” said Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources.
At the National Wildlife Property Repository near Denver on Nov. 14, the wildlife service, working with conservation organizations, will crush six tons of tusks, artwork and other ivory objects that were confiscated upon entering the United States. Officials said that to raise awareness further, the crushed ivory would be used to create memorials around the country against poaching. The United States is the second-largest consumer, behind China, of illegal animal products like elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and tiger blood.
Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said that reintroducing the government’s stock of ivory into the legal market was not a viable option because small sales had been shown to stimulate demand, not satiate it. Officials also said adding to the supply would make it harder to identify and prosecute illegal trade.
The Philippines, Kenya and Gabon have also destroyed their stocks of ivory. More....