Last week, U.S. officials pulverized and destroyed six tons of ivory that had been seized from smugglers and other illicit dealers over many years. It focused a spotlight on the sleazy black market fed by illegal poaching -- a crime that flourishes despite international bans.
It's disgusting that some renegades kill magnificent elephants, tigers, rhinos, gorillas and other endangered species -- partly to supply underground ivory-carvers and partly to sell to superstitious Asians who stupidly think items like rhino horns boost their sexual prowess.
The World Wildlife Fund says:
"Poaching is the greatest current threat to tigers, rhinos, elephants, gorillas and other African and Asian species. It's a crime and it's driving species to extinction. Tigers and rhinos are particularly vulnerable, their body parts being prized in traditional Asian medicine."
The WWF says "the value of a rhino horn in illegal trade is probably 100 times the average earnings of a villager" who lives near the huge beasts. But the slaughter isn't committed just by remote peasants. The WWF added that today's poaching also is "carried out by sophisticated and well-organized criminal networks, using helicopters, night-vision equipment, tranquilizers and silencers to kill animals at night, avoiding law-enforcement patrols."
During the 1980s, an estimated 100,000 African elephants were butchered yearly for tusks and meat. Africa lost half of its herd. But a worldwide ivory ban in 1989 brought increased police patrols, and elephants began to multiply again.
Stopping the black market fueled by poachers is a noble goal. We hope West Virginia's members of Congress support all U.S. efforts to save the majestic creatures fashioned by nature.