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U.S. Fish and Wildlife to Destroy 1 Ton of Illegal Ivory

Elephants by Shannon Benson

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. 

As part of its National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, the Obama administration announced last year that it would move to ban the commercial ivory imports, and to prohibit exports and interstate trade with very limited exceptions (several states, including California and Connecticut, are considering legislation to ban intrastate ivory sales as well). The national strategy also calls for leveraging partnerships to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products, both in the U.S. and abroad.

We applaud the federal government’s increasing efforts to end the trade by reducing demand for ivory products. There’s much more to be done, but we hope the Times Square event will bring much-needed attention to crisis that Africa’s elephants face at the hands of poachers, militant groups and international criminal syndicates that profit from the illegal trade. And we look forward to working the U.S. government and with U.S. Fish and Wildlife in educating and persuading the public never to buy ivory. You can make a pledge to be #IvoryFree by visiting IvoryFree.org.

Below: Video of the 2013 ivory crush in Denver.