Two tons of ivory crushed in push to de­stroy il­le­gal trade

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY MARY ESCH AND JOSEPH B. FRED­ER­ICK

NEW YORK | Trin­kets, stat­ues and jew­elry crafted from the tusks of at least 100 slaugh­tered ele­phants were fed Thurs­day into a rock crusher in Cen­tral Park to demon­strate the state’s com­mit­ment to smash­ing the il­le­gal ivory trade.

The ar­ti­facts placed cer­e­mo­ni­ously onto a con­veyor belt to be ground into dust in­cluded piles of golf-ball-sized Ja­panese sculp­tures, called net­suke, in­tri­cately carved into mon­keys, rab­bits and other fan­ci­ful de­signs. Many of the items were beau­ti­ful. Some were ex­tremely valu­able.

But state en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety mem­bers, who part­nered with Tif­fany & Co. for the “Ivory Crush” of nearly 2 tons of ivory, said no price jus­ti­fies slaugh­ter­ing ele­phants for their tusks.

“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,” said John Calvelli, the So­ci­ety’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and di­rec­tor of the 96 Ele­phants cam­paign. “We won’t stand for the slaugh­ter of ele­phants. No­body needs an ivory brooch that badly.”

The sale of ivory across in­ter­na­tional boundaries has been banned since 1990, but the U.S. and many other coun­tries have al­lowed peo­ple to buy and sell ivory do­mes­ti­cally, sub­ject to cer­tain reg­u­la­tions that gave smug­glers loop­holes.

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice in­sti­tuted a near-to­tal ban on the do­mes­tic com­mer­cial ivory trade and barred sales across state lines.

Since Au­gust 2014, New York law has pro­hib­ited the sale, pur­chase, trade or dis­tri­bu­tion of any­thing made from ele­phant or mam­moth ivory or rhi­noc­eros horn, ex­cept in lim­ited sit­u­a­tions with state approval.

En­force­ment ef­forts have fo­cused on New York City, the na­tion’s largest port of en­try for il­le­gal wildlife goods, state of­fi­cials said.

The ivory pieces sent to the crusher in­cluded more than $4.5 mil­lion worth seized by un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tors from Metropoli­tan Fine Arts & An­tiques in New York City in 2015.

In plead­ing guilty last week to il­le­gally selling ivory, the store’s own­ers agreed to do­nate $100,000 each to the World Wildlife Fund and Wild To­mor­row Fund for their en­dan­gered species pro­tec­tion projects.

Also headed for the crusher was a net­suke, de­pict­ing three men with a fish, worth an es­ti­mated $14,000, and a pair of elab­o­rately carved ivory tow­ers worth $850,000.

More than 270 tons of ivory have been de­stroyed by gov­ern­ments and con­ser­va­tion groups in high-pro­file pub­lic events in 22 coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety.

Some crit­ics have ar­gued that de­stroy­ing ivory could drive up black mar­ket prices by in­creas­ing scarcity, thus en­cour­ag­ing more poach­ing.

Others ar­gue that it’s waste­ful and that it would be bet­ter to sell con­fis­cated ivory to pay for con­ser­va­tion ef­forts in poor African coun­tries.

Wendy Hap­good, founder of Wild To­mor­row Fund, said crush­ing events send a sig­nal that laws ban­ning the ivory trade will be strictly en­forced.

“It’s a way to tell the world that ivory shouldn’t be cov­eted, it should be de­stroyed. It be­longs only on an ele­phant,” she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.