Does U.S. Ivory Crush Go Far Enough?

UNITED STATES

A growing stash of more than six tons of ivory from slaughtered elephants, heaped in a warehouse north of Denver, is about to be destroyed as part of a new U.S. push to combat illegal wildlife trafficking worldwide. (Denver Post) It will be a symbolic act. But symbolism matters. (National Geographic News: Opinion)

Use our resources to better understand the ivory trade.

Learn more about the ivory crush with this informative, easy-to-understand Q&A from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Discussion Ideas

  • Bryan Christy, the author of the (opinion) article from Nat Geo News, has been covering the ivory trade for more than a decade. He is the author of the National Geographic magazine article “Ivory Worship” and helped create the Nat Geo film Battle for the Elephants. Why does Christy say the U.S. ivory crush is a good “first step”? First step in what? What are the next steps?
    • First Step: Christy says the ivory crush is a good first step in reducing the worldwide trade in ivory. Destruction of the U.S. stockpile sends a message that ivory trafficking will not be tolerated in the U.S. In addition, according to the Denver Post article, “U.S. officials said they’ll give $10 million to help fight poaching in Africa and will try to persuade Asian governments to outlaw trinkets and other products made from elephant ivory. Tactics being considered include use of cellphone technology to monitor elephants, social media campaigning in China and cooperation with companies such as eBay to curb commerce.”
    • Next steps: Christy emphasizes the crucial next steps in eliminating the ivory trade must involve China. “Law enforcement in Asia and Africa is inadequate to stop ivory trafficking syndicates. So calling upon China and other countries to ban the domestic sale of ivory and to join the U.S. would be an even more meaningful expenditure of American political capital,” he says.
  • Watch our media spotlight video on “Tanzania’s Ivory Stockpile,” and read more about the U.S. ivory stockpile in the terrific Denver Post article. Why do you think Tanzania has not made the decision to destroy its ivory stockpile, the way the U.S. has?
    • The economic value of the seized ivory is much greater in Tanzania than it is in the U.S.
      • Tanzania is a developing nation that could use the money gained from the sale of seized ivory for conservation efforts.
      • International attention surrounding the sale of seized ivory could help create a culture of conservation and ecotourism among Tanzanians, reducing the economic appeal of illegal ivory trafficking. Nearby Kenya made this decision in 1989, when it burned its own ivory stockpile. Bryan Christy explains: “Kenya made a calculation that tourism for live elephants was more valuable than trinkets from dead ones.”

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Here’s the ultimate raw material in situ, of course.

Maun, Botswana

Photograph by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic

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