The world is increasingly getting angry with China and other Asian countries who, as we’ve covered before, continue to tolerate the illegal poaching and subsequent sales of endangered species derived products.
To highlight the United States’ resolve on the issue, law enforcement destroyed more than a ton of elephant ivory in New York’s Times Square on Friday.
The public display of outrage saw conservationists, lawmakers, wildlife officials, and bystanders watch as seized ivory was turned into sand-like powder by an industrial rock crusher.
“Today, we are not just crushing illegally poached ivory; we are crushing the bloody ivory market,” said Cristian Samper who is the president of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“We are crushing any hopes by the poachers that they will profit by killing off our Earth’s majestic elephants. Criminals, take notice.”
Poaching is reducing elephant populations at an alarming rate, and the numbers are getting especially grim in Africa, where most of the giant animals are targeted.
“Elephant poaching is at its highest level in decades and now exceeds the species’ reproductive potential,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which organized the Times Square crushing.
Despite full awareness of just how perilous elephant and rhino survival has become, the illegal ivory trade has doubled worldwide since 2007. China and the United States are among the largest markets for the illegal ivory.
Such crushing started two years ago, when the United States crushed a six ton stockpile of ivory in Denver. Other nations, such as Gabon, Kenya and the Philippines have followed suit and destroyed large quantities in recent years.
The bulk of the ivory crushed Friday was confiscated during undercover operations by law enforcement, including a horde of ivory seized by a Philadelphia art dealer who pleaded guilty in federal court to smuggling African elephant ivory.
African elephants are classified as threatened under the endangered species act, while Rhinos are considered endangered.
The United States strictly prohibits commercial imports and rigorously regulates domestic trade of ivory products to ensure no new ivory is making it into the country.
About 35,000 elephants are slaughtered annually as the demand for ivory grows worldwide, particularly in China, where it is prized as art and used in quack medicine.