COMMERCE CITY - Into a crushing machine went six tons of illegally smuggled elephant ivory confiscated over the course of 25 years. What wildlife advocates hopes come out of that machine Thursday is a message to consumers and traffickers of the ivory.
"By crushing its contraband ivory tusks and trinkets, the U.S. government sends a signal that it will not tolerate the senseless killing of elephants," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund.
The six tons of confiscated elephant ivory was fed into a crushing machine at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Property Repository on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. This is the first time the U.S. has destroyed the confiscated stockpile of ivory.
Media outlets from around the world documented the crushing of the ivory. Officials hope the images will send a message to the world.
"What I hope comes out of today is the pictures and video of the crushing of the ivory goes viral around the world," said Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Wildlife Direct. "I think it is going to send a very strong message to the people who are trafficking ivory across Africa that there is global intolerance."
The poaching of elephants in Africa has placed the future of the animals in doubt.
"If nothing is done, we could see elephants disappear," said Grace Gabriel, Asian regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
According to William Woody, chief law enforcement officer for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, elephant ivory sells for between $1,200 and $1,500 on the world market. The U.S. is the second largest destination for the ivory while China is first.
"You have people no matter how much education you do they are still going to continue to do this, because the value is so high. Now if we can educate consumers and say this is the issue, that will help," said Woody.
The crushed ivory will be used for education program at recognized zoos and aquariums in the United States to raise awareness about the plight of the elephant.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)