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Times Square Crush: Smuggled Ivory Destroyed

Jun 22, 2015 12:30 PM EDT
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Friday in New York's Times Square, more than one ton of illegal products from elephants and possibly walruses was loaded into an industrial rock crusher and destroyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as government officials, celebrities, and thousands of onlookers in the "Crossroads of the World" watched.

The event was a public display against the international ivory trade, which generally targets African and Asian elephants, and walruses.

"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," remarked U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, as reported by Discovery.com. "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," she said, according to Discovery.com

An earlier Ivory Crush event took place in November 2013. At that time, the U.S. government destroyed six tons of ivory. As a result, nine other international governments held similar events, Discovery.com reported.

Friday's event took place partly at the request of New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, who wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to request an ivory crush in Times Square because, as he observed, New York City is the epicenter of the illegal ivory trade, Hoylman said in a press release.  "An elephant is killed every 15 minutes. If we are to protect this magnificent species from extinction we need to raise awareness about the trade of illegal ivory and choke off consumer demand." 

The event took place in partnership with New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Hoylman. Partnering organizations included the African Wildlife Foundation, The Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Although a worldwide ban on ivory trading was enacted in 1989, a recent report says that almost 35,000 elephants are killed annually for their ivory.

Much of the ivory destroyed in Friday's event was confiscated from the Philadelphia, Pa., store of Victor Gordon, an art and antiques dealer who, in 2012, pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to smuggling African elephant ivory into the U.S. The seizure was one of the largest of elephant ivory on record nationwide. Other ivory crushed on Friday was seized in operations by the FWS, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service press release.

In July 2013, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to combat wildlife trafficking. With input from an advisory council of experts on wildlife trafficking, a task force set forth an approach that focuses on three key objectives to stop wildlife trafficking: strengthening enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and expanding international cooperation, according to a press release.

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