U.S. to Destroy 6 Tons of Ivory This Week
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A box of ivory carvings headed for destruction as the United States plans to crush its stockpile of illegal ivory.
Vassil, Wikimedia Commons
The co-host of a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel recently spent $350,000 for the chance to hunt an endangered black rhinoceros in southern Africa. Corey Knowlton won the Dallas Safari Club's auction for a permit to hunt the rhino in Namibia. Knowlton says he and his family have received death threats after his name was made public through social media. "As much as I would love them all to live forever, they are going to die," Knowltontold CNN
. "The older males are killing each other, and something has to be done about it."
Nearly any animal can be legally killed in many parts of Africa, so long as the hunter pays the right amount of money. For rare and endangered species, the cost can escalate to many thousands of U.S. dollars.
"National parks are obviously trying to make money," Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told Discovery News. "The hunters have to pay the parks if they want to shoot the animals."
It can be a Catch-22, since the parks often struggle to pay their staff, which include those who work to care for and protect the animals. The high price tag of a permit may serve as a deterrent, but it also reflects how much poachers can earn without even benefiting the parks.[/br
Patrick Giraud, Wikimedia Commons
The payment needed to legally shoot an elephant drops to $50,000 in Zimbabwe, with a further loss of $10,000 if the elephant has no tusks. "The reason rhinos are more valuable than elephants is because the horn is so valuable and in such high demand by the Chinese," Rodrigues said.
Patrick Giraud, Wikimedia Commons
$20,000 can allow hunters with appropriate permits to kill several rare animals in many parts of Africa. Leopards are on that list, even though The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists them as "threatened."
Kevin Pluck, Wikimedia Commons
The price tag on lions is also $20,000. In terms of what happens to the dead animals, "As far as I know," Rodrigues said, "once the animals are hunted, they are exported to the hunter's home country." Upon arrival, the hunter may preserve the animal's dead body and put it on display.
The cost to legally hunt a cheetah in Zimbabwe is $20,000. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists them as "vulnerable," but further mentions that "the known cheetah population is approximately 7,500-10,000 adult animals." In 1975, the number of cheetahs in Africa was estimated at 15,000, revealing that this species has significantly declined in only three generations.
Majestic Roan antelopes also can be hunted for $20,000 in parts of Africa. While its population is more numerous than wild cats, this species has been eliminated from large parts of its former range, primarily due to poaching and habitat loss.
Paul Maritz, Wikimedia Commons
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports that sable antelopes possess "high value as a trophy animal."
Ikiwaner, Wikimedia Commons
Sometimes the cost to hunt an animal differs if the target is male or female. That is the case for African buffalos, since males have larger horns than females do. The horn size difference costs a hunter an extra two grand to shoot a male African buffalo.
Roland H., Wikimedia Commons
A hunter must pay $5,000 to legally shoot a giraffe in Zimbabwe. The IUCN Red List reports that "a recent preliminary population estimate suggests a decline in the total population has taken place." While giraffes are currently listed as being animals of "least concern," that classification might soon change if the estimate is substantiated.
Valdiney Pimenta, Wikimedia Commons
On the less expensive side of the scale are flamingos, which cost only $100 to legally hunt in Zimbabwe. The value of this and the other animals to conservationists and other animal lovers comes without a price tag, however. To them, the animals are priceless. Nevertheless, by putting a price on the heads of animals, some national parks in Africa earn money that helps to fuel their operations. The biggest problem is poachers, who receive relatively light sentences for their crimes.
Rodrigues explained, "The only thing a poacher would get if they trapped these animals is a jail sentence if they are caught."
In a first, U.S. officials are going to destroy their massive stockpile of illegal ivory this week, hoping to send a zero-tolerance message to elephant poachers.
On Thursday (Nov. 14), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will pulverize nearly 6 tons (5.4 tonnes) of illegal ivory items, from whole tusks to tiny trinkets, which have been seized over the past 25 years as a result of smuggling busts and criminal investigations.
The ivory crush will take place at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo., just outside of Denver.
Seized ivory is typically kept as evidence until criminal cases are over. After that, the objects can be used to educate the public and train law enforcement officials. But FWS officials say that since the 1980s they have collected far more ivory than they need to fulfill those purposes. Thursday's event will mark the first time such a large amount of ivory is being destroyed in the United States.
"Destroying this ivory tells criminals who engage in poaching and trafficking that the United States will take all available measures to disrupt and prosecute those who prey on and profit from the deaths of these magnificent animals," FWS officials said in a fact sheet.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international ivory trade in 1989. But a CITES report published last year found that elephant poaching was at its highest level in a decade and rising.
FWS officials say they are working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to develop "a creative and informative use" of the crushed ivory, with a goal to educate the public about poaching.
The ivory crush was initially scheduled to take place in October, but it was postponed due to the government shutdown.