(ANIMAL NEWS/WILDLIFE CONSERVATION) NEW YORK CITY — In a move to combat the illegal ivory trade that kills countless elephants each day, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation destroyed over two tons of ivory in Central Park on Thursday.
While the practice is controversial, the destruction of piles of confiscated tusks, trinkets, statues, and jewelry sends a powerful message that the material should have no worth.
Even though opinions regarding the value of destroying ivory are mixed, the hope is that the act will encourage an end to elephant poaching.
Read on to learn more about the federal ivory ban, and the significance of Thursday’s ivory crush taking place in the middle of the world’s most famous public park. — Global Animal
New York Daily News, John Calvelli
An ornately carved statue of the Buddha. One half of a fine chess set. Pins, brooches and religious figurines. And two pairs of whole, raw tusks nearly seven feet long. All are made from or contain illegal elephant ivory.
All were seized by law enforcement in the heart of New York City. And today, all of it will be destroyed in the name of endangered species conservation. In Central Park, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will crush close to two tons of confiscated illegal ivory.
The crush should build momentum for the President and Congress to take additional steps to help protect elephants on the ground by fully funding anti-poaching and anti-trafficking programs of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Three years ago, New York was among the first states to pass strict controls on the trade in ivory. As part of the response to the elephant extinction crisis, the state Legislature and Gov. Cuomo enacted an ivory ban with few exceptions in order to increase penalties and reduce demand for these illicit items.
Since then, state authorities have cracked down on those who break the law. Two sellers busted in 2015 on 57th St. in Midtown Manhattan with $4.5 million worth of ivory items were convicted just last week and ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties. That ivory will be crushed in Central Park.
The plight of elephants in Africa is grim. Killed at rates as high as 96 per day, some estimates say that African forest elephants could be extinct within a decade. Poachers targeting these creatures easily outnumber and outgun the gutsy wildlife rangers who are there to protect them.
Trafficking interdiction efforts have been expanded both at airports and seaports in Africa and at their destination points. Sniffer dogs trained to detect the presence of ivory are growing in use, as has so-called SMART enforcement systems that use mobile technology to track both wildlife and poachers.
Meanwhile, anti-ivory social media campaigns in China have had an impact on public opinion in the world’s largest ivory market.
Nevertheless, sophisticated criminal networks, sometimes the same ones that deal in weapons, drugs and humans, continue to traffic the tusks out of Africa. From there it flows to eastern and western markets to fill the still thriving demand for ivory goods.
Most of this illicit ivory goes to China, with some reports stating that the United States is the second largest market. And because New York is a key hub for imported goods, much of that ivory ends up right here.
By passing an ivory ban in 2014, New York helped spur the world into action for elephants. Several other states enacted ivory bans following New York, and in 2016, the U.S. government implemented its own strong ban on the ivory trade and imposed stricter penalties on those who engage in wildlife trafficking and attempt to launder their proceeds.
The federal ban was followed by passage of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which identifies those countries where poaching, trafficking, and demand are driving species toward extinction and work with them to curb the problem.
This has put more pressure on other countries to act. In the past year, delegates to both the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora both called for the closure of all domestic ivory markets.
Finally, the Chinese government announced that it would shut down its trade of ivory by the end of 2017. These are meaningful actions that can have global ramifications for the remaining populations of elephants. The administration should continue to work with China to ensure its markets close.
This non-partisan issue has drawn the attention of leaders across the political spectrum. It was Republican former Secretary of State James A. Baker III who in the past year observed, “Teddy Roosevelt long ago cautioned us not to leave our wild places more diminished than we found them. If we extend that idea to an increasingly interconnected world, we must acknowledge a collective responsibility for the survival of elephants as a species.”
When it comes to cracking down on trade here in the U.S., New York has helped lead the way. The efforts of the DEC law enforcement, along with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., conservation organizations, and our citizens, all carry the message that when it comes to commercial ivory sales, New York is closed for business.
By crushing a ton of ivory in the middle of the world’s most famous public park, New Yorkers are sending a message to poachers, traffickers and dealers who try to set up shop right here on our streets: We won’t stand for the slaughter of elephants. Nobody needs an ivory brooch that badly.
More NY Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/crush-ivory-save-elephants-article-1.3378439
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