The event has been organised to generate greater awareness of the plight of Africa’s elephants, with more than 30,000 being killed annually for their ivory. It presents another sign of the United States’ commitment to ending the illegal ivory trade and slaughter of elephants in Africa.
As a front line, field based conservation organisation, the DSWT is witness to the horrors of poaching on a daily basis. Whether looking into the eyes of one of the baby elephants being hand raised by the Trust having been orphaned due to poaching, or treating a bull elephant with a poison arrow wound, so that he might continue to stride across the savannah.
Mwashoti was just 1 year old when he stepped into a cable snare, and as he tried to free himself, the snare cut deeper and deeper into his leg. By the time of his rescue, it had almost severed his leg off. The injury would have killed him, had it not been for the intervention of the KWS and DSWT and today, after 4 months of intensive treatment for both his physical and emotional trauma, it is miraculous to see Mwashoti not only alive, but playing with the other orphaned elephants in our care, walking on the injured leg and clambering out of mud pools.
Rob Brandford, Executive Director at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (UK) says, “Mwashoti’s wound was one of the worst we have seen and it is credit to our elephant keepers and vets that he’s still with us today and walking on his injured leg. However his future is far from secure, as while we can afford him the care and support he needs as he grows up, when an adult he needs to be living back in the wild. We have Anti-Poaching Operations and Aerial Surveillance Teams operating to protect elephants, however they alone cannot win the battle, we need the world to turn its back on ivory. People need to understand and acknowledge that every piece of ivory represents a dead elephant and unless we end the trade in ivory, we will be witness to the extinction of elephants in our lifetime.”
Crushing one ton of seized ivory in New York’s iconic Times Square on Friday June 19th will not end the trade or save the elephants. It will, however, draw significant media attention to the issue, presenting a symbolic message to the world that the USA will not stand idly by while organised crime syndicates and all those implicit in the illegal ivory trade profiteer off the brutal decimation of a species.
The US has been taking increasingly pro-active steps to tackle the illegal ivory trade since 2013 and individual States are similarly recognising the role they can and must play in protecting elephants by banning or, at least strictly regulating, any ivory sales within their borders. New Jersey and New York have already enacted new legislation, while California’s Assembly recently passed enhanced ivory regulations, which now await a vote in the State’s Senate. Other States are considering new legislation and events such as Friday’s Crush can play a powerful role in demonstrating to State lawmakers the importance of this issue and why it is paramount for them to act to ban ivory sales in their States. Friday’s ivory crush will be the second time the US government has destroyed a stockpile of seized ivory, following the destruction of 6 tons in November 2013. Other Nations have taken similar action in the last few years, most notably Kenya, which has destroyed 20 tons in two ivory burns in the last 4 years, Ethiopia, Congo, China - the largest market for legal and illegal ivory - destroyed 6 tons in 2014 and a further 662kg last month, Hong Kong has committed to destroying almost 30 tons, while Gabon, Chad, Belgium, France and The Philippines have all destroyed ivory stockpiles. The purpose, to make clear that the trade in ivory, which is slaughtering elephants, fuelling organised crime and linked with funding terrorist organisations, will not be tolerated. Elephants and people are losing their lives, any inaction and failure to tackle this trade makes us complicit in this bloodshed.
Rob Brandford adds “We must learn that the only value in ivory is to a living elephant, not in some trinket or so called piece of art. We wouldn’t create art from the teeth of murdered people, it would understandably cause mass outrage, and so what arrogance to believe that it is any less barbaric when the victim is an elephant!”
DSWT Patron Kristin Davis, will be attending Friday’s Crush, along with Melissa Sciacca, Executive Director of the U.S. Friends of the DSWT. They will be representing our Rangers, Elephant Keepers, Vet Teams and Pilots, who on Friday, as they do every day, will be facing the harsh realities of the ivory trade on the front lines, as they patrol in Kenya in their mission to keep elephants alive!
More information on the Times Square Ivory Crush can be found at www.fws.gov/ivorycrush