The federal government will soon destroy confiscated illegal ivory in hopes of sending a clear warning to poachers.
According to the New York Times, a task force including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation groups plans to crush six tons of ivory, stockpiled since the 1980’s. As the world’s second largest market for ivory, after China, the United States is looking to decrease the demand for ivory as elephant poaching rises.
“It’s not risk free to kill elephants and illegally traffic in their ivory, but the value of the product is making the risk worth it for many of these criminals,” says Fish and Wildlife Service director, Daniel M. Ashe. “By destroying our domestic stocks of ivory, we send a very clear signal that these illegally traded products should not be perceived as items of value,” adds Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The U.S. will not be the first country to enact this anti-poaching effort, as the Philippines, Kenya and Gabon have also destroyed their confiscated illegal ivory, the NY Times reports. The crushed ivory will later be used in creations raising awareness of poaching throughout the U.S.
Ivory sales continue, despite the international ban of commercial trading of ivory in 1989. The increase in poaching has had an impact beyond just reducing elephant numbers. Researchers have found that the loss of other elephants and destruction of habitats have taken a psychological toll on elephants, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress similar to those in humans. Poaching also puts social bonds and the learning of behaviors by young elephants from the elder members of the herds at risk.