The Obama administration announced Monday its plans to publicly destroy its six-ton stockpile of ivory in a move to raise awareness of the illicit wildlife trade responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of elephants, rhinos and other endangered animals each year.
The US accumulated its ivory stockpile -- which consists of raw and carved whole tusks and smaller items -- over the course of the last 25 years. Publicly destroying the stockpile is largely a symbolic move, one that comes on the heels of the Philippines' move to destroy its own massive ivory cache.
By crushing millions of dollars worth of ivory, it raises public awareness of the illegal ivory trade, which remains narrow.
"Rising demand for ivory is fueling a renewed and horrific slaughter of elephants in Africa, threatening remaining populations across the continent," US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, said, according to The Guardian. "We will continue to work aggressively ... to disrupt and prosecute criminals who traffic in ivory, and we encourage other nations to join us in that effort."
Jewel said that wildlife trafficking has doubled since 2007 and is estimated to be a $10 billion illegal industry, the fourth largest transnational crime in the world, fueled by rising demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia.
Jewel said that rhino horn is now worth more than twice its weight in gold and that the US was one of biggest customers for illegally traded wildlife goods, Reuters reported.
In Tanzania, the poaching of wild elephants has risen by a factor of eight, while killing of rhinos has gone up factor of 50, Jewel said.
The ivory cache is stored in Denver and will be destroyed on Oct. 8 by being crushed by rock grinders, the Denver Post reported.
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