More than 1 tonne of confiscated ivory tumbled off a conveyor belt into a rock crusher in New York City’s Times Square on Friday in a symbolic display highlighting an illegal trade that campaigners said threatens the survival of African elephants.
The Wildlife Conservation Society said the global ivory trade is responsible for the slaughter of as many as 35,000 elephants in Africa each year.
“Crushing ivory in Times Square — literally at the crossroads of the world — says in the clearest of terms that the US is serious about closing its illegal ivory markets and stopping the demand,” said John Calvelli, the society’s executive vice president for public affairs.
US and state government officials, conservationists, animal welfare advocates and tourists gathered to watch as hundreds of ivory trinkets were turned into a powder that fed into a trough, waiting to be trucked away.
The event was organized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, New York state agencies and the society, which runs New York City’s zoos.
Actress Kristen Davis, a longtime advocate for elephants known for her role in the HBO show Sex and the City, said at the event that no one should ever buy ivory, even if a dealer says the item is an antique.
“We are going to lose elephants in 10 years if we do not do something, which means that our children will never know that elephants roamed the planet in the wild as they should,” Davis said.
The crush was one of several ivory destruction events that have been held around the world to stigmatize the ivory trade.
The Times Square ivory is to be combined with the 6 tonnes that was crushed in Denver in 2013 and used to create a memorial to elephants.
Officials said they are committed to fighting the ivory trade not just to protect elephants, but to combat terrorists and criminals who profit from elephant poaching.
“Animal trafficking, we now know, is funding those dangerous groups out there,” US Representative Steve Israel said. “It is a source of revenue for terrorist groups around the world.”
Much of the ivory destroyed on Friday was confiscated from Philadelphia antiques dealer Victor Gordon, officials said.
Gordon was sentenced in US federal court in June last year to two-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay US$157,500 in fines and forfeitures for smuggling ivory into the US.
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