In an effort to combat the ivory trade and subsequent slaughter of elephants to obtain their precious ivory, the U.S. has placed an all out "ban" on all ivory - raw, as well as ivory products.
Sadly, almost 6 tons of raw and carved ivory from well over 1,000 elephants were crushed and removed from the black market in the United States' with their latest push to combat poaching.
Although it was an act with good intentions, the elephants who died giving up that ivory seem to have died in vain.
Millions of dollars' worth of intricately carved figurines, bracelets and other trinkets were all fed into a rock-crushing machine Thursday at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, rendering the pieces worthless.
"What was once a local or regional problem has become a global crisis," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel Ashe. "How will we answer the question when our grandchildren ask why there are no elephants remaining in the wild? Will they be proud of us when we say it was more important to own beautiful things than for beautiful things to roam in spectacular places?"
The ivory ban comes just seven months after President Obama's visit to Tanzania, where he made a call for action and discussed a new strategy for eliminating the brutal wildlife trafficking.
The U.S. is seeking to strengthen global enforcement and international cooperation to fight an illicit trade estimated to total about $10 billion per year.
A report issued in September by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence says the illicit ivory trade has grown to $10 billion and is now a major resource to fund crime and terrorism.
Not only is it funding terrorists–poaching is extremely brutal. Earlier this year, poachers reportedly used cyanide to kill 300 African elephants for their tusks, and some have used night-vision goggles and AK-47s.
African elephants have returned to the brink of extinction after an increase in poaching, according to a recent report by the National Intelligence Council. Poaching has doubled since 2007, with numbers suggesting that 30,000 elephants were brutally slaughtered for their tusks last year. Even though the United Nations-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) issued an ivory ban in 1989, the poaching continues.
The demand in the U.S. for wildlife products has seen the market price for ivory at more than $1,000 a pound and has increased significantly, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
CITES relaxed the ban in 1997, however, to allow limited sales of ivory in Zimbabwe and later, China. According to Peter Knights, the executive director of WildAid, relaxing the ban resulted in "disaster" and destroying the ivory is the best thing to do.
"People need to understand that this is as heinous a crime as consumption of heroin," Knights said. "We don’t put heroin back on the market after we seize it, so this [crush] is the right thing to do. I think people who say otherwise are people who [support] this theory of legal supply, which we tried for 20 years, they fiddled with it and it was a disaster and we tried it with another release into China and that was a disaster, too, so you have to look at history and you have to learn its lesson."
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