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‘Lifeless pile of tusks’ crushed in NYC to protest ivory trade

On Friday, illegal elephant ivory was put on display and then destroyed in the center of Times Square in New York City. Elephant poaching is soaring according to conservation groups, as a pound of ivory can fetch $1,500 on the black market. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Finally tonight, saving the African elephant by destroying elephant ivory.

    Yesterday, more than one ton of illegal elephant ivory was put on display in the center of Times Square by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • DAN ASHE:

    This lifeless pile of tusks and trinkets and decorations is a stark reminder of the many thousands of elephants that have been slaughtered and continue to be slaughtered to support the global trade in ivory.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Elephant poaching for ivory is soaring according to conservation groups; a pound of ivory can fetch $1,500 on the black market and African elephants are already listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

    But the seized ivory was not there just to be looked at, it was there to be crushed. One by one the pieces were placed on a conveyer belt where they were dropped into an industrial rock crusher. The decorative ivory was turned into a fine powder.

    The idea was to show there will be no tolerance for the illegal ivory trade and demonstrate to poachers and collectors that living elephants are more valuable than their ivory.

    Yesterday was the sixth ivory crush in the last two years. And other countries have followed the U.S.'s lead, including China which is the largest market for ivory in the world. Chinese officials destroyed nearly 1,500 pounds of ivory in May.

    Azzedine Downes, who runs the International Fund for Animal Welfare, says raising public awareness through publicity events like this crush will help change behavior.

  • AZZEDINE DOWNES:

    This is not a problem of conservation biology. It's not a problem of conservation management. This is a problem that people can solve. Don't buy ivory. That's what's going to stop the elephants from being killed.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And in case you missed it, be sure to check out NewsHour's shortwave podcast for more on the illegal ivory trade in the U.S.

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