By Grace Ge Gabriel
At the invitation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, I am flying into Denver, Colorado today to witness the destruction of the elephant ivory seized in the United States.
Nearly six tons of elephant ivory confiscated from illegal trade will be destroyed by crushing at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. The symbolic ivory crush signifies the US commitment to combat wildlife trafficking as outlined in President Obama’s new Executive Order in July.
The organization I work for, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) strongly supports governments to destroy their stockpiles of confiscated ivory for two reasons: both as a symbolic gesture to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of elephants that are being killed each year to supply the ivory trade, but also as a way to ensure that seized ivory does not re-enter the market.
IFAW believes the destruction of confiscated ivory will send a strong signal to consumers everywhere that buying ivory is immoral and wrong, and send a tough message to poachers and traffickers that their actions will not be tolerated.
The snow-capped mountains and the crisp dry air of the mile high city bring back memories of another symbolic destruction of wildlife parts from another species, on another continent.
A decade ago, at the Kekexili Nature Reserve in China’s western plateau, elevation 3-miles high (16,400 ft), I twice joined Chinese government officials in setting fire to thousands of confiscated Tibetan antelope pelts.
Tibetan antelope or chiru ((Pantholops hodgsonii), a highly endangered species endemic to the Qinghai Tibet plateau, were heavily poached in China for their wool, which is smuggled into India to be woven into a shawl highly-prized for its lightness, softness and warmth that it is called “shahtoosh” (“King of Wool”).
The sharp demand for Shahtoosh shawls in the luxury markets in Europe and America stimulated poaching, which saw tens of thousands of chiru killed a year. More....