U.S. Prepares to Destroy 6 Tons of Illegal Ivory

Saturday, September 14, 2013
Elephant ivory tusks (photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

To draw attention to the problem of illegal poaching, the U.S. government has decided to destroy more than six tons of confiscated ivory that’s been collecting in a federal warehouse northeast of Denver.


The move is part of an initiative launched in July by the Obama administration to combat the killing of protected wildlife and end the trafficking of products derived from poaching.


Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) hope the crushing of tusks and ivory carvings will help garner support for eliminating a $10 billion illegal industry.


“Our experience is that the only way to end this trade is to get international support. That's the goal of what we're doing with this crush,” Steve Oberholtzer, the FWS special-agent-in-charge based in Denver, told the Denver Post.


The government intends to spend $10 million in Africa to help stop poachers. In some cases, the anti-poaching campaign is confronted with dealing with militant groups, like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, which use illegal ivory trafficking to raise money for their campaigns.


Officials also are talking to governments in Asia to curb the trading of products made with ivory.


The ivory destruction will take place in Colorado because that’s where the government has its National Wildlife Property Repository, which holds smuggled wildlife parts seized at seaports, border crossings and airports nationwide.


Officials say getting rid of the ivory will also clear some space in the repository’s brimming warehouse that no longer has room for it. Ivory has been collecting on the floor of the building due to a lack of space on shelves.


Some of the crushed ivory, which will be pulverized on October 8, will be used in a planned memorial, possibly in Washington, DC or another location, for raising awareness of the thousands of elephants killed by poachers and other people.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Ivory Stashed in Denver to be Crushed in Effort to Stave Off Poaching (by Bruce Finley, Denver Post)

U.S. to Destroy 6 Tons of Confiscated Ivory, Sending Message to Poachers (by John Platt, Scientific American)


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