The ivory trade has hit the world’s elephant population hard, and conservationists in New York are fighting back. On Thursday, the city publicly destroyed more than a ton of tusks and ivory products.
The nearly 650 pieces of ivory were placed on a conveyor belt, and crushed in Central Park.
CGTN’s Nick Harper reports.
Piece by piece, New York is moving ivory out of the hands of collectors and dealers. This public crushing was the final journey for one and half tons of trinkets, ornaments and art work, as part of the city’s efforts to crush the illegal ivory trade. The public destruction in Central Park was designed with one reason in mind.
“We want to send a very strong message to the public that New York, that America, we are united and we stand together, and even though we don’t have elephants in the wild we still want to protect them, we want to do our part to curb that demand,” Lieutenant Jesse Paluch of the New York State Environmental Conservation Police said.
Conservationists estimate that an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, the equivalent of almost a hundred animals a day.
“We are seeing the rate of elephant killing 20-25,000 elephants a year and is higher than the rate of regeneration,” Jimmiel Mandima of the African Wildlife Foundation said. “So essentially what this means is that we could be seeing elephants getting extinct under our watch.”
Two years ago, a similar event was held in Times Square. As with that one, all the ivory was seized in New York.
The Central Park demonstration destroyed about $8 million dollars’ worth of illegal ivory. Conservationists said that represents the ivory taken from a hundred different elephants.
In 2014, New York became one of the first U.S. state to impose a ban on ivory products. It’s been working with the other largest market for ivory, China, to shut down the trade.
“China has really stepped up in a very meaningful way to say we are going to be closing our markets,” John Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society said. “We worked very closely with our State Department and our governmental officials and they worked very closely with their counterparts in China and what we were able to do is show that we can collaborate, we can work together.”
The organizers said this is a bittersweet event: A sad end for the elephants’ ivory, but a happier ending than sitting on a collectors’ shelf.