The U.S. with help from the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the World Wildlife Conservation Society and other governmental and environmental groups made a public showing of crushing nearly a ton of ivory in the middle of Times Square today to bring awareness to the ill effects of poaching.
Most of the ivory came from one person, an ivory smuggler in Philadelphia named Victor Gordon. He’s in jail serving a 30-month sentence, according to Quartz. The items destroyed were worth about $1 million.
According to the FWS:
We want to send a clear message that the United States will not tolerate ivory trafficking and is committed to protecting elephants from extinction. The toll these crimes are taking on elephant populations, particularly in Africa, is at its worst in decades. The United States believes that it is important to destroy ivory seized as a result of law enforcement investigations and at international ports of entry. 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 Wildlife Conservation Society adds that 35,000 elephants are killed each year in Africa for their ivory.
The last of these ivory crushes in the U.S. took place in Denver in 2013 when six tons of ivory was crushed. Two weeks ago, there was a crush in Beijing. China says they’re trying to put a halt to the sale and manufacturing of these products.
An op-ed by Elly Pepper of the National Resources Defense Council notes that these crushes are visually arresting, offensive the ear as well when onlookers hear the ivory actually being crushed. In addition, poachers know that the government is willing to cut into their business. But, she adds, these actions have to be backed up with laws and a focus on how inhumane this whole industry is.
We’ll also add that these government agencies and nonprofits have to keep up the campaign of reminding people that they have to care about this issue beyond just these events. A hashtag, #IvoryCrush, did a good job of spreading this event online. But there has to be continued outreach that emphasizes why we care so much about these great and majestic animals, and why it’s our duty to protect them. Right now, the U.S. is consumed with so many issues that rising to the top of the persistent din is difficult. A continued and comprehensive effort that goes beyond these events will keep this issue close to the hearts of a population that doesn’t want to see a world without elephants.