This Friday, June 19, one ton of confiscated ivory will be destroyed before the crowds in New York City's Times Square.
I am privileged to be representing the International Fund for Animal (IFAW) and our supporters along with our Asia Regional Director, Grace Ge Gabriel, and our North American Director, Jeff Flocken, at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) hosted event.
Over the past two years, more than half a dozen countries have destroyed ivory in public events. In some countries, like China and the US, the destroyed stockpile was confiscated illegal ivory, and in other countries, like France and the UK, individual people donated ivory from their own personal possessions, some of which had a great deal of sentimental value.
These individuals wanted to be sure that their legal ivory never went back into a market, which potentially motivates people to kill elephants.
As we travel to New York City, of one thing I'm certain: All of the organizations involved intend this highly visual and dramatic destruction of ivory to be a show of solidarity with the many other countries around the world that are destroying their stockpiles in what is now a global call for increased elephant protection.
Is it a waste when we publicly destroy ivory?
I am often asked, shouldn't we sell the ivory and use those funds for elephant conservation?
To which I answer: We cannot contribute to any trade of elephant ivory, when the elephant poaching crisis today shows that the current "controlled" legal trade system does not protect elephants.
Instead, all indications are that as long as there is a legal market for ivory, the vicious supply and demand cycle will continue, more elephants will be killed and their ivory smuggled into these same markets. Ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere.
More than being a keystone species in Africa and Asia, elephants are highly intelligent animals, with deep family bonds. They show love, compassion and grief. We need to focus on the fact that these animals have more value alive, than brutally slaughtered and sold piecemeal.
By standing with USFWS this week in publicly destroying this ivory, we demonstrate our commitment to their enforcement and confiscation efforts. And we hope you'll stand with us in our demand reduction, community development and education efforts.
If we want to save elephants lives now, before it is too late, we have to make sure that consumers reject ivory products and that ivory ceases to have economic value.
- Azzedine Downes Stand with us! Help IFAW protect elephants around the world by signing our petition for stronger ivory regulations now.