“We’ll crush you,” says NY to wildlife crime syndicates

This morning in New York City’s iconic Central Park, I along with hundreds of others witnessed the crushing of approximately two tons of seized ivory trinkets made from the tusks of about 100 African elephants brutally — and illegally — slaughtered by poachers. This number corresponds to the reported 96 elephants killed each day to supply ivory markets around the world, particularly in China and the U.S., where demand is highest.

Organized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society, in partnership with African Wildlife Foundation, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, The Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare, National Geographic, Natural Resources Defense Council, Save Animals Facing Extinction, United States Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, and WildAid, the event featured remarks from several officials, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Foote, who was in attendance from Washington, D.C. 

Destroying the confiscated ivory artifacts, which collectively fetched millions of dollars on the black market, takes them out of circulation so they can never be resold, sending a clear message that tusks hold no value when stripped from a living elephant and that the rule of law is on these animals’ side.  

The event was also intended to raise awareness not only about the severe plight of elephants, but also the heavy human toll that the ivory trade takes given its well-established ties to international criminal networks that engage in terrorism, human trafficking, and high-volume sales of firearms and drugs. Furthermore, approximately 1,000 rangers have been killed in the line of duty to date.

New York was one of the first states to ban the sale of ivory in 2014.  Statewide ivory bans have also been passed in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. A federal ivory ban was enacted last year. Even so, poaching has been rampant, with the population of African savannah elephants plummeting by about 30% in just the last seven years alone.  

Despite the grim nature of the event, there was some hope. A point that was raised repeatedly by various speakers was that in these politically turbulent times, opposition to poaching is one issue that most Americans can agree on, as was apparent from a recent poll conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, as well as from the fact that the federal ivory ban enacted by the previous administration has not (yet) been contested by the current one. “This isn’t just a bipartisan issue, it’s a nonpartisan issue,” was the frequent refrain. It was encouraging to see so many people turn up and stay for the hour-plus duration despite it being a weekday morning in scorching summer sun. There was a heavy media presence from many major news outlets.

My own photos from the event are below.

Approaching the event space:

Just one of the many press vehicles present:

The NGO co-host of the event:

Other participating NGO partners:

Examples of the ivory pieces slated for the crusher: 

The conveyor belt leading up to the crusher:


The crusher itself:

A very cool (literally) fan courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society…boy did it come in handy:

Stay tuned for a future post focusing on philanthropy’s response to the poaching crisis.

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