New York state crushes ivory stockpiles in Central Park as an act of theater to rally the world against the ivory trade
With the federal government taking active and intentional steps inimical to animal protection and conservation — launching an assault on native predators, looking to roll back federal protections of national monuments, and distancing our nation from the active global fight against climate change — some of the biggest states are taking on the mantle of leadership and trying to act as a counterweight. Today, New York state, with supporting partners including The HSUS and Humane Society International, had more than a word to say on the issue of wildlife trafficking. State authorities crushed almost two tons of confiscated illegal elephant ivory in New York City’s Central Park.
This crush is the latest mass destruction of seized elephant ivory and rhino horn done in a public setting to raise awareness about the ongoing poaching crisis and the urgent need to stop the demand for wildlife parts. To date, government officials at events like this one, in about two dozen countries in Africa, Asia, and North America, have destroyed more than 200 tons of seized illicit wildlife products. The point of every action has been the same: to signal that any trade in ivory and other parts of endangered animals is an existential threat to wildlife and consequently to the economies of nations that depend on thriving populations of megafauna.
This is the third haul of seized ivory crushed in the United States over the past four years, and those seizures collectively demonstrate that the United States still has work to do to curb our domestic ivory market. New York has one of the toughest anti-wildlife trafficking laws, and California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have passed similarly strong laws further clamping down on the sale of these products within their own borders (The HSUS and HSI have led the fight for the enactment of these measures). The Obama administration adopted national restrictions on the import, export, and interstate trade of ivory, and officers in these seven states are making cases, and putting a major dent in the trade.
But we know that unscrupulous smugglers, traffickers, and dealers will continue to launder illicit ivory products to the market and sell them to unsuspecting customers. As some states take action to combat the wildlife trade within their own borders, the markets for these products inevitably move to other states with weaker laws and regulations. A report published last week found that recent federal regulatory changes and tightened states laws have been effective at decreasing the market for ivory. However, metropolitan regions without local restrictions, such as the greater Washington, D.C. area, are now emerging as the largest markets for ivory. The trade in ivory has also increasingly shifted to the online marketplace.
The HSUS is working with lawmakers in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania to pass measures that would prohibit the sale of elephant ivory and other wildlife parts. Humane Society International is working to shut down ivory markets in key ivory consuming countries, such as Japan. China is on track to close its domestic ivory market by the end of this year.
Poachers kill as many as 100 elephants a day for their tusks. In September 2016, the Great Elephant Census revealed a disturbing 30 percent decline in the number of savanna elephants since 2007. Forest elephants in Central Africa have experienced a 65 percent reduction in their populations.
We thank environmental conservation officers and prosecutors in New York for enforcing that state’s groundbreaking 2014 law banning the sale and purchase of elephant ivory. While the ivory crushed today is a grim reminder of the elephant poaching crisis, it also demonstrates how we, as a society, need not be bystanders in the face of this threat. No one needs ivory trinkets and vanity items. The cost of consuming them is incalculable, both to our planet and to our wildlife, and a bad bargain for us all.
This original post was updated August 7, 2017.