US Will Crush 6-Ton Stockpile Of Seized Ivory To Send Message To Poachers

By Josh Lieberman on November 12, 2013 11:08 PM EST

ivory tusks
The U.S. will crush six tons of seized elephant ivory to send a message to those participating in the illegal ivory trade. Above, seized elephant tusks being burned in Kenya. (Photo: Reuters)

On November 14, the United States will crush six tons of ivory intercepted over the last three decades. The action is meant to send a message to elephant poachers and ivory traffickers that the U.S. will not tolerate the illegal trade. Kenya, Gabon and the Philippines have all destroyed ivory caches in recent years, but this marks the first time the U.S. will do so, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service.

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"We want to send a clear message that the United States will not tolerate ivory trafficking and the toll it is taking on elephant populations, particularly in Africa," the USFWS wrote. "Destroying this ivory tells criminals who engage in poaching and trafficking that the United States will take all available measures to disrupt and prosecute those who prey on and profit from the deaths of these magnificent animals."

The USFWS estimates that their six-ton ivory collection, which contains whole tusks, carved tusks and many smaller objects, is the result of "at least a couple thousand elephants" losing their lives. The ivory was discovered in cargo ship holds, the false bottoms of suitcases, and even jars of face cream. African ivory has been illegal to import into the U.S. since 1989, when almost all nations banned its trade as part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangerzed Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Some 30,000 African elephants were killed by poachers in 2012. In one recent, high profile incident, poachers in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe poisoned at least 87 elephants and stripped them of their tusks. Poaching is so widespread that ivory hunters have reduced the numbers of African elephants by 62 percent in the last ten years.

Despite it's widespread illegality, the ivory trafficking remains a lucrative draw: it's a $10 billion business, putting it right behind drugs and human trafficking. The demand for ivory in China and Japan in particular has encouraged poaching, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency.

In July, President Obama launched an initiative to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. The initiative includes a task force made up of the State, Interior and Justice departments which will come up with a strategy to curb global trafficking. The initiative also sets aside $10 million to combat rhino and elephant poaching in Africa.

READ MORE:

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