On Friday (June 19), the United States Government and the State of New York sent a strong message to elephant poachers across the globe -- and to U.S. lawmakers: We have to crush the illegal ivory trade, once and for all.
New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and New York State Senator Brad Hoylman to destroy 2,000 pounds of confiscated ivory right in the middle of Times Square as an effort to, in part, raise public awareness of the illegal ivory trade that does happen on U.S. soil.
"Many Americans don’t realize that the U.S. ivory market is one of the largest in the world," said Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) executive director Peter Lehner in a statement. "Or that its epicenter, until recently, was right here in New York City. Today’s ivory crush, together with tough state and federal laws cracking down on the illegal ivory trade, send a strong signal that the United States wants no part in this trade that is so devastating to wildlife."
Last year, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that banned the sale of elephant ivory and rhinosaurus horns in the state of New York. Not coincidentally, the governor put his executive seal on the legislation on World Elephant Day.
Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), called for national participation to follow in the effort to eliminate US participation in the elephant poaching market.
"Today the United States sent a strong message that it will not tolerate wildlife crime," said Roberts. "For Africa’s vanishing elephants, these are the most desperate of times and more needs to be done. Just last month, China – another major consumer market for wildlife products – announced it would end its ivory trade. The US must do the same, urgently."
The NRDC is sponsoring a petition to the Obama Administration to call to extend such protective legislation to a national level.
The NRDC estimates that an elephant is killed for its tusks every 20 minutes.
Most of the ivory destroyed Friday was seized from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shop of an art and antiques dealer in 2014. The owner was arrested and sentenced to 30 months in prison, in addition to fines and forfeitures totaling $157,500.
This is the second major crush event to take place in the United States recently -- previously, in 2013, over six tons were destroyed in Denver, Colorado.
Actress Kristin Davis, who turned the Empire State Building's towers grey and red in support of Friday's Ivory Crush effort, was also present for the event in Colorado.