Federal authorities sent a message to elephant poachers Thursday by crushing a six-ton stockpile of illegal ivory into bit and pieces.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gathered 25 years worth of confiscated ivory — ranging from tusks to carved statues — and destroyed it with an industrial-sized rock crusher in Commerce City, Colo. (Via KUSA)
Deputy Secretary of State Judy Garber, a senior Obama administration official, said at the event, "By taking this action, the United States will help raise the profile of the issue and inspire other nations. All of us have to step up our game and work together to put an end to this before we lose the species forever." (Via The Denver Post)
The ivory crushed Thursday equates to tusks from about 2,000 elephants — a pretty significant number considering how quickly the giant mammals are being killed off.
"They cannot possibly reproduce as fast as they're being killed. And they're being killed from airplanes with machine guns, heavy artillery." (Via CNN)
"With only 500,000 left and up to 50,000 killed every year, poaching could make elephants all but extinct in barely a decade." (Via CBS)
Ivory trade is a multi-billion dollar market. The Wall Street Journal reports a kilo of raw ivory, also known as "white gold," can sell for up to $3,000.
And the ivory crush wasn't just about conservation efforts; it's about where that money is going.
Terrorist-linked groups have been connected to the illegal ivory trade. Investigators believe criminal organizations, like Al-Shabab, the group that carried out the Kenya mall attack in September, use money from the ivory to support their activities. (Via ABC)
NBC reports U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry even offered a $1 million reward for tips leading to a Laos-based criminal network that profits from the killing of endangered elephants.
But stockpile crushings, like the one in Colorado, have drawn a fair share of critics.
An editorial published on The Guardian's environment blog suggests the ivory destruction spectacles will only add an incentive for more killings. "With demand remaining stable, ivory prices will increase. Raw ivory prices in China have doubled since 2011 ... Poachers and those paying them now have increased incentive to go out and kill more elephants."
Other nations including Kenya, Gabon and the Phillipines have also destroyed ivory stockpiles in the past. KUSA reports the crushed ivory will go to zoos and aquariums all over the country to raise awareness about the decreasing number of elephants worldwide.