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November 14, 2013

Crushing the Ivory Tower

Elephant poaching is an epidemic. The stragglers are slaughtered, and so are entire family groups. Typically, their faces are hacked off, since that’s the easiest way to run off with the ivory. Poachers are killing upwards of 30,000 African elephants each year, and the future for the world’s largest land mammal looks bleak as a consequence.

In a historic move today that underscored the United States’ commitment to end the trade, the federal government destroyed close to six tons of its stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory from seizures in the U.S. – an amount of ivory equivalent to 2,000 poached elephants killed for their tusks.  

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Twelve thousand pounds of ivory, all slated for destruction
in the crush.

The crush sends the message that buying ivory kills elephants, and that ivory statues, trinkets, and jewelry are part of the problem, and that we have to restrict trade in these products. We’ve got to come out of our ivory towers and fight the menace of poaching and the insidious trade in elephant parts. We hear a lot about China, and concerns about the trade there are warranted, but the fact is, the United States is the second-largest market for ivory in the world. 

Ivory trade laws in the U.S. are riddled with loopholes, with the law allowing pre-1973 ivory to be sold. But there’s no way for the buyer to make a judgment about the age of the ivory, and smugglers take advantage of this deficiency, selling ivory that comes from recently-poached elephants. In fact, one-third of ivory for sale is illegal, meaning it is ivory from elephants who were killed in the last 40 years.

We need stronger laws in the U.S., at the state and federal levels, to ban any trade in ivory. 

The HSUS and its global affiliate Humane Society International are working on a number of fronts to combat the wildlife trade, including ivory trafficking. The HSUS is urging lawmakers in New York and Hawaii to ban the sale of ivory and we are working with the federal government to determine if the ivory sale loopholes can be closed through issuance of new regulations.

Fresh off of a major announcement on animal testing there, HSI has been working with its partners in China to mobilize public support for elephants and against the ivory trade. We also issued a statement today with our partners in China that urges the international community to reject ivory consumption and push for sustained global collaborative efforts, including that of the Chinese government, on combatting illegal wildlife trade.

The U.S. ivory crush has already encouraged advocates and NGOs with whom we work in China and Hong Kong to push for crushes of their government-held ivory stockpiles. Hong Kong’s ivory stockpile is believed to be as high as 26 tons. Hong Kong has a unique role in the global ivory trade because it is both a significant transit point and destination market. Their government is expected to make a decision early next year.

Ivory looks best on the elephants, and they’re the ones that make the best use of it.

Tell Hong Kong to destroy its ivory stockpile >>

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