On Friday Times Square played host to a very interesting and important political spectacle: #IvoryCrush. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) joined with other departments and agencies to publicly destroy over a ton of seized illicit ivory.
“Today, we are not just crushing illegally poached ivory; we are crushing the bloody ivory market,” said Wildlife Conservation Society President and CEO Cristián Samper. “We are crushing any hopes by the poachers that they will profit by killing off our Earth’s majestic elephants. This international and violent crime is threatening the elephants as well as people and communities, and the United States continues to show great leadership with today’s ivory crush in Times Square. Criminals, take notice.”
At first, it may seem incredibly pointless and wasteful to destroy the last remnants of these increasingly rare species existence–destroying the ivory will not bring the elephants and rhinos back.
However the commercial ivory market is very tightly regulated and it has been the policy that trade of any ivory that was obtained via illicit means, even after seizure by any world government, is illegal.
Stockpiles of seized ivory sit in government warehouses throughout the world, and some, via corrupt officials, do make it back out into the black market.
Hence the encouragement by the consortium of organizations for other governments to join in crushing these stockpiles, hopefully eliminating demand once and for all.
“Today’s ivory crush serves as a stark reminder to the rest of the world that the United States will not tolerate wildlife crimes, especially against iconic and endangered animals,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The message is loud and clear: This Administration will stop the poachers in their tracks, stop the profits and work with our international partners to protect our global natural heritage.”
The Times Square ivory crush builds on momentum generated by the FWS’s initial destruction of six tons of contraband ivory in November 2013. Since then, nine governments have followed suit to destroy ivory. Campaigns to reduce demand for ivory domestically and overseas and to strengthen international laws and enforcement have further elevated the issue of wildlife trafficking globally.
While initiatives to clamp down on the trade in ivory could have effects in the aftermarket, where the true challenge lies is in protecting the still-living stocks of Elephant and Rhinos. The very last male specimen of white rhino in the wild remains under 24 hour armed protection, such is the demand pressure poachers have to encourage them to ply their trade.
While #IvoryCrush makes for a sad and tragic public awareness campaign, it will do little to deter the bushmen who make their paltry living poaching these species into extinction.