Who would want to live in a world without elephants?
That’s the question I asked myself as I watched the Fish and Wildlife Service pulverize 6 tons of ivory jewelry, canes, decorative objects, and the like yesterday at Denver’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
I think all of us watching felt a mix of emotions. On one hand, this was a historic event—the first time the U.S. government has ever destroyed its stockpiles of confiscated ivory. And it was an important action – an acknowledgement of the huge role we play in the ivory trade (the U.S. is the second biggest importer of ivory) and a commitment to finding a solution.
Ivory waiting to be crushed by the blue "pulverizer" in the background
On the other hand, it was somber. The ivory being crushed represents several thousand elephants that were killed for their tusks and the event seemed a little like a final goodbye.
Earlier in the day, government officials including Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, actresses Kristin Davis (Sex in the City) and Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood), and conservation leaders like Kenya’s Dr. Paula Kahumbu had delivered impassioned speeches about the importance of elephants and how out of control elephant poaching has become. With around 30,000 elephants being killed every year, if we continue on this trajectory we only have about 10 years left with these amazing creatures. In other words, by 2023 elephants may be gone from many areas in Africa.
Celebrities and government officials hold soon-to-be-crushed ivory
Today was a huge step in ending this slaughter, which I hope will pave the way for an essential next step: a U.S. ban of ALL ivory. Because when it comes down to it, no one really wants to live in a world without elephants and we’ve got to do whatever it takes.
30,000 elephants killed a year = 30,000 reasons not to buy ivory