News World

Illegal ivory worth millions pulverized

By Brad Hunter, Toronto Sun

Music legend and wildlife advocate Mick Fleetwood, ambassador for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, holds a piece of ivory to be crushed during #IvoryCrush in Central Park in New York on Aug. 3, 2017. (GETTY IMAGES)

Music legend and wildlife advocate Mick Fleetwood, ambassador for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, holds a piece of ivory to be crushed during #IvoryCrush in Central Park in New York on Aug. 3, 2017. (GETTY IMAGES)

A slew of ivory statues, jewelry and knick knacks worth millions was pummeled into dust Thursday in New York’s Central Park.

The ivory had come from the tusks of nearly 100 slaughtered elephants and the state wanted to illustrate its commitment to obliterating the illegal ivory trade.

“By crushing a ton of ivory in the middle of the world’s most famous public park, New Yorkers are sending a message to poachers, traffickers and dealers who try to set up shop right here on our streets,” said John Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We won’t stand for the slaughter of elephants. Nobody needs an ivory brooch that badly.”

The Big Apple has become ground zero in North America for trafficking in illegal ivory, rhino horns and the parts of a litany of other critically-endangered creatures.

But in Central Park, the artifacts were put on a conveyor belt to turn them into dust. Among the items were piles of golf-ball-sized Japanese sculptures, called netsuke, intricately carved into monkeys, rabbits and other fanciful designs.

Also headed for the crusher was a netsuke, depicting three men with a fish, worth an estimated $14,000, and a pair of elaborately carved ivory towers worth a whopping $850,000.

More than 270 tons (245 metric tons) of ivory have been destroyed by governments and conservation groups in high-profile public events in 22 countries, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

But state environmental officials and Wildlife Conservation Society members, who partnered with Tiffany & Co. for the “Ivory Crush” of nearly 2 tons (1.8 metric tons) of ivory, said no price justifies slaughtering elephants for their tusks.

The sale of ivory across international boundaries has been banned since 1990, but the U.S. and many other countries have allowed people to buy and sell ivory domestically, subject to certain regulations that gave smugglers loopholes.

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instituted a near-total ban on the domestic commercial ivory trade and barred sales across state lines.

Since August 2014, New York law has prohibited the sale, purchase, trade or distribution of anything made from elephant or mammoth ivory or rhinoceros horn, except in limited situations with state approval.

The ivory pieces sent to the crusher included more than $4.5 million worth seized by undercover investigators from Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques in New York City in 2015.

In pleading guilty last week to illegally selling ivory, the store’s owners agreed to donate $100,000 each to the World Wildlife Fund and Wild Tomorrow Fund for their endangered species protection projects.

Meanwhile, a Chinese woman was nabbed at the Nairobi airport trying to smuggle $100,000 worth of ivory into Vietnam. Asian nations are wild about ivory from elephants, tigers, rhinos and just anything else remotely exotic.

Cao Juhua, 38, is charged with trafficking ivory.

-with files from The Associated Press