By Maya Rhodan
The Obama administration has a message for consumers and vendors of illegal ivory: the United States will not stand for poaching.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hoping that the message is heard loud and clear when they use a rock-crusher to pulverize six tons of ivory the government has seized over the past 25 years on Nov. 14.
At the national wildlife repository in Denver, hordes of raw and carved tusks, ivory ornaments, and jewelry will be destroyed in the Obama administration’s latest effort of promoting wildlife conservation. The African Conservation Act largely banned imports and exports of the material in 1989 after a surge in poaching wiped out nearly two-thirds of the African Elephant species. Since, the U.S. has been seizing ivory at borders, shipping ports and other points of entry.
“We are taking an important step next week, said Daniel Ashe, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at a press event at the Foreign Press Center on Tuesday. “We’re doing that in the hopes of raising the profile of this issue and also to try to inspire other nations around the world to deal with their stockpiles.”
Though the crush is the first American ivory destruction, other countries have been destroying the material for some time. Over the summer, the Philippines crushed and burned 5 tons of ivory from its stockpile to prevent officials from stealing and selling the material on the black market. In 2011, the Kenyan president also burned their ivory to send a message to poachers, though fire alone doesn’t destroy the material.
Ivory has been estimated as worth more than cocaine and gold on the black market, with annual revenue of about $10 billion. Destroying the stockpiles, officials say, is intended to show poachers and traders that ultimately there is no market for the material. “There shouldn’t be a value on ivory,” Ed Grace, the deputy chief of law enforcement at the Fish and Wildlife Service, told TIME. More....