The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces federal wildlife laws such as the Endangered Species Act, announced earlier today that it will crush 1 ton of illegal ivory on Friday, June 19 in the middle of New York’s Times Square.
The Times Square crush follows a similar event held two years ago in Denver, where the Service destroyed 6 tons of ivory, seized over a 25-year period.
Several nations have also held their own ivory crush or burning events over the past several months — the most recent being China, where Beijing officials presided over the destruction of nearly 1,500 lbs. of raw tusks and carvings. During the event, State Forestry Administration Zhao Shucong announced that China would “strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.” This commitment, if fulfilled, would be the greatest single step to reducing elephant poaching.
The U.S. has shown increasing resolve to address the American ivory market, considered to be the world’s second-largest after China’s.
In statements made this week by a top Chinese official to the Washington Post, China has pledged a high-level commitment to ending its current legal commercial ivory trade.
While a concrete timetable has yet to be developed, the official, Dr. Meng Xianlin of the CITES Management Authority of China, confirmed the action could happen "very quickly."
WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, who have mounted the world’s largest ivory public awareness campaign with Chinese media, have welcomed this action as a historic move in the fight to save African elephants from rampant poaching. An estimated 33,000 elephants are being killed every year to supply ivory markets in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the U.S. and other nations.
“Ending legal sales of ivory in China is the greatest single step that can be taken to reduce elephant poaching in Africa and we hope it can happen as soon as possible. We applaud China for its leadership and will continue to work closely with Chinese state and private media in our campaigns to reduce demand for ivory," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said.
In just a few short months, WildAid’s second-year initiatives for our “Stop Using Rhino Horn” campaign have become viral hits in Vietnam, reaching over 1 million people via traditional and social media channels.
Why are we working in Vietnam? In recent years, the country has become a primary market for rhino horn. Given its exorbitant cost, it’s used by some to demonstrate affluence and social status, both as a party drug and as a gift to important political officials. It’s also peddled as a cure for myriad health problems including cancer, despite any medical evidence proving such benefits.
Our campaign aims to educate the public about the rhino-poaching crisis and to counter the myths of rhino horn’s alleged medicinal benefits. After all, rhino horn is primarily composed of keratin fibers, the same as human hair and fingernails.
Update, Tuesday, June 2. Good news: AB 96, the bill to close ivory trade loopholes in California, has passed overwhelmingly and on a bipartisan basis in the state assembly. The 62-14 vote is a big win for Speaker Toni G. Atkins' bill. The state senate will now take up the legislation; we will keep you posted on upcoming hearings.
On Friday, WildAid attended an ivory destruction event in Beijing, where nearly 1,500 pounds of tusks and carvings were destroyed.
During the event, Zhao Shucong, head of China’s State Forestry Administration, announced that China "will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.”