COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Six tons of confiscated elephant ivory was crushed Thursday at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Property Repository at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
The event was attended by representatives of African nations and other countries, dozens of leading conservationists and international media representatives. It is the latest in a series of actions by the Obama administration designed to crack down on international poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.
The ivory was pulverized by an industrial rock crusher in front of some of the world's most influential conservationists.
"By crushing its contraband ivory tusks and trinkets, the U.S. government sends a signal that it will not tolerate the senseless killing of elephants," said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. "Other countries need to join the United States, Gabon, Kenya and the Philippines to take a stand against the crime syndicates behind this slaughter."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife accumulated the ivory destroyed today over the past 25 years, seizing it during undercover investigations of organized smuggling operations or confiscating it at the U.S. border. Although it is difficult to put an exact figure on the number of different elephants this ivory represents, it certainly numbers in the thousands. Prior to being seized, most of this ivory was destined to be sold illegally in the United States or overseas.
In the last 10 years, an estimated 11,000 African forest elephants were killed in Gabon's Minkebe National Park alone. During that time, the total population of forest elephants plummeted by an estimated 62 percent across Central Africa. Elephant massacres have taken place in Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic in the past year. Well-armed and organized criminal enterprises have taken advantage of insufficient protection capacity in remote areas.
African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected under the African Elephant Conservation Act.