Ivory Crushed In Times Square To Raise Awareness Of Wildlife Trafficking

Jun 19, 2015
Originally published on June 19, 2015 8:13 pm
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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

One ton of ivory - that's how much federal officials crushed today in New York's Times Square. The goal is to raise awareness about the illegal ivory trade and the elephant poaching that feeds it. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCK-CRUSHING MACHINE)

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: I'm here in Times Square in New York, and that sound you hear is ivory being dumped into the back of a rock-crushing machine.

JACK: And it's taking it and just kind of pulverizing it and making it into crumble.

ROSE: Jack Lefkowitz (ph) played hooky from school in Brooklyn to watch with his mom and hundreds of other people as hand-carved trinkets and tusks were fed one-by-one into the rock crusher. Federal officials hope this message will resonate beyond New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SALLY JEWELL: We're not only crushing ivory. We're crushing the bloody ivory market.

ROSE: Sally Jewell is the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEWELL: If we want our children to grow up in world where they can see elephants in the wild, we owe it to them to shut down the market that motivates poachers, to bring shame to those around the world who would buy these products.

ROSE: This is not the first major ivory crush. Federal officials destroyed more than 6 tons in Denver two years ago. There have also been big crushes in China, which is the world's largest market for ivory. Economists wonder whether they're reducing demand or just driving up the price of ivory that's still on the market. John Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped organize today's crush, says it will make a difference.

JOHN CALVELLI: What this does is galvanize public. Look around the square. There are people from all over the world that are learning about this issue.

ROSE: Calvelli says the crushes help build public support to make the sale of ivory illegal in New York and New Jersey, but African elephants are still being killed faster than the population can grow. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.