The San Diego Zoo burned items containing rhinoceros horn with an estimated black market value of $1 million in a symbolic gesture Thursday to show the U.S. is committed to ending illegal wildlife trafficking.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the zoo and California Department of Fish and Wildlife to hold the massive bonfire, the first of its kind in the United States.
Photo Gallery: Rhino items burned. Photos by May Lee/CCTV America
Illegal wildlife trafficking is a global problem, and here in the U.S., it’s growing every year.
Rhino horn is one of the most coveted by traffickers because of its value on the black market. But some rhino products have just been taken off the market for good in order to send a clear message to wildlife criminals.
CCTV’s May Lee reports on this unusual, first-of-its-kind strategy.
San Diego Zoo sets fire to $1M in rhinoceros horn productsThe San Diego Zoo burned items containing rhinoceros horn with an estimated black market value of $1 million in a symbolic gesture Thursday to show the U.S. is committed to ending illegal wildlife trafficking. The San Diego Zoo burned items containing rhinoceros horn with an estimated black market value of $1 million in a symbolic gesture Thursday to show the U.S. is committed to ending illegal wildlife trafficking.
Thousands of illegal rhino parts and products are confiscated by U.S. authorities over the years, and it’s not slowing down.
An average of three Rhinos are killed every day in Africa by poachers mainly for their horns, which can fetch up to $60-thousand per kilo on the black market, more than gold and cocaine. At this rate, these gentle giants will soon be extinct, some species within 15 years.
“This trafficking strengthens criminal organizations and fuels corruption with environmental crimes generating an estimated $40 billion in revenue for criminals each year,” Daniel Foote, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State said.
So desperate times call for desperate measures.
This is the first sanctioned rhino horn burn in the U.S. The message is clear, wildlife trafficking and trade of any kind will not be tolerated.
About a million dollars of illegal rhino horn and rhino horn products are going up in smoke, but it’s just a fraction of what’s confiscated every year. According to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, in the past few years, about 200 rhino horns have been confiscated. That’s about $30 million.
Since 2013, the U.S. has convicted 30 traffickers, including one of the biggest, Chinese national Zhifei Li, the ringleader of an international rhino smuggling operation.
Officials seized 30 rhino horns and other rhino and ivory related objects worth more than four-and-a-half million dollars. Li was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison.
“We can’t arrest or convict our way out of this problem. That’s a part of the short term solution, but long term we have to take steps to reduce the demand. What we need China to do is step up their game and work to deal with their demand nationally,” Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
China, along with Vietnam, Laos and the U.S., has pledged to increase efforts to combat wildlife trafficking.
It’s progress that just may keep these and other magnificent creatures from vanishing forever.