United States Will Preserve Elephants’ Memories with Sculpture Made of Ivory Dust

On October 8, the U.S. government will destroy six million tons of ivory that is now stored in a warehouse outside of Denver. Publicly crushing the huge store of elephant tusks, sculptures and more is intended to send a very clear statement of how serious the United States is about fighting the $10 billion wildlife trafficking industry.

If poaching continues at the current rate — as many as 96 African elephants a day were killed last year, a total of 35,000 — elephants could disappear from Africa in a decade.

Wildlife parts seized at border crossing, airports and seaports are held at the National Wildlife Property Repository, at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City. As the Denver Post says, some of the seized tusks that will be crushed are from young elephants and bear sad witness to a  ”generations lost.” Elephants cannot reproduce until they are over 25 years old; poachers usually kill them prior to sawing off their tusks.

As Steve Oberholtzer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special-agent-in-charge, says in the Denver Post,  ”the only way to end this trade is to get international support. That’s the goal of what we’re doing with this crush.”

The Obama administration’s plan to destroy tons of seized ivory stems from the President’s July 1 executive order to stop the killing of protected wildlife, put a halt to trafficking and decrease demand for illegal rhino horns and ivory. $10 million is being dedicated to fight poaching in Africa.

The United States is also seeking to convince African governments to outlaw the sale of ivory trinkets and other items; undertaking a social media campaign in China (where the majority of ivory sold is of “questionable origin”); seeking to work with companies including eBay to halt commerce in items made from ivory and creating a new advisory council of former administration officials and conservation and business leaders to oversee a crackdown on illegal poaching syndicates.

Harsher penalties for wildlife trafficking are also under consideration. There are plenty of American buyers for, and sellers of, ivory. Last year, two Manhattan jewelry dealers pleaded guilty to illegal ivory trading. Earlier this year, a New Mexico man was indicted by a federal grand jury in Pensacola, Florida for the illegal sale of two African elephant tusks.

Can Crushing Seized Ivory Deter Poaching?

Other countries have destroyed massive amounts of seized ivory to send a message to poachers. Back in 1989, Kenya’s President Daniel Arap Moi, with Kenya Wildlife Service Director Richard Leakey beside him, set fire to 13 tons of ivory. Earlier this year, Philippines crushed 15 million tons of seized ivory under industrial rollers.

The slaughter of elephants and rhinos has nonetheless continued. But conservationists say that the United States’ plans to destroy its stockpile of seized ivory will hurt the illegal trade in ivory. Keeping such a huge store of ivory amounts to harboring a “time bomb” that contributes to keeping prices high for trafficked goods and makes it unclear whether governments are really serious about banning the ivory trade.

U.S. authorities cannot resell seized items; even if they could do so, it is unlikely that this would affect the illegal market. Sell-offs of ivory were held in 2008 and 2010, with the support of the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, but these were deemed controversial.

Wildlife Trafficking is a National Security Issue

At a White House event on Monday, at which the plan to crush the United States’ seized ivory store was announced with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton present, interior secretary Sally Jewell also emphasized that wildlife trafficking must be seen not only as a conservation issue but one of national security. State department issues are now referring to wildlife trafficking as a national security crisis, with profits from the illegal ivory trade funding extremist movements, including affiliates of al-Qaida in Somalia.

As to what the United States plans to do with the huge pile of ivory dust that it will be left with in October: federal authorities say that some of the crushed ivory will be used to create a somber memorial, in Washington D.C. or elsewhere, to remember the vast number of elephants killed for their tusks.

Photo of ivory goods seized at NYC's JFK Airport via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Regino


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Terri B.
Terri B5 years ago

this whole situation is just tremendously sad. all i can think of is the horror those poor INNOCENT elephants had to go through just because of the greed of ignorant humans. stupid, heartless BASTARDS!!! WORLD WITHOUT PEOPLE - UTOPIA!!!!!

Lisa D.
Lisa D5 years ago

Will R.
Im sorry but I believe you are wrong
first of all, yes i agree that the monument idea is ridiculous! For many reasons, it is wrong and disgusting for this to be a representation of the illegal ivory trade in the US

Now however I dont believe it should go back to Africa - IT SHOULD ALL BE DESTROYED - burned or minced or whatever other way they know how to destroy it all..

the pictures used do not actually represent the story.. its just a picture

Giving it back to Africa is like their best dreams come true - they would be able to RESELL it to the chinese or whoever else wants it and therefore they will make huge profits off it.

Now I do believe that certain historical items made out of ivory should not be destroyed - they represent another time, where things were different & rules and laws were also different.. they were made legally & i think those should not have to be destroyed

ALL nations should detsroy the ivory they have collected from illegal trading.

annie s.
christine s5 years ago

By destroying it ,it shows the poachers that is not worth anything so maybe it will stop them from killing more animals ( who am I trying to fool ) --it's a thought. Burying the ashes would how respect to the animals.

Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 5 years ago

What's the point? Only to show off...
Thank you Kristina...

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson5 years ago

What does that prove? They can't bring back the animals.

Milan Lorman
Milan Lorman5 years ago

Quote from the article: -" U.S. authorities cannot resell seized items; even if they could do so, it is unlikely that this would affect the illegal market."

Congress, like any Legislative Body, routinely drafts, debates, passes and authorizes enforcement of new Laws which are deemed necessary for achieving a desired end. So - Gentlemen (and Ladies), DO YOUR STUFF !

About the "Controversial Sell-offs of ivory held in 2008 and 2010 - " I doubt if they were expected to break the back of the illegal Ivory Trade. More likely it was just a despicable "Fundraising" by the Authorities. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I cannot research this matter at great length, I only have about 20% of my eyesight left.

Milan Lorman
Milan Lorman5 years ago

October 9 is barely three weeks away. If there is anyone out there who can prevent this monstrous vandalism to be committed, please, don't waste any time !

The U.S. Government has the means at their disposal to wipe out the Ivory Trade, it can do it - it must do it. No amount of twisted, pious rhetoric will save a single elephant (or Walrus for that matter). No amount of speechifying and appealing has made a dint in Whaling for "Scientific Purposes", it won't save the Elephants.

The evil Ivory Poaching must be rendered commercially "Not Viable". There is no shortage of know-how and experience in the U.S. to which the Government can turn. Let the big business "Movers and Shakers" do something worthwhile for a change !

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Ye gods! Americas racism knows no bounds! Crushing it is wrong because they are stolen goods, stolen from the African continent and people, and as such should be returned to them to do with as they please. There is, a certain hypocrisy...considering that most of the damage to the elephant population happened over the last 400 years, (some by the same people who almost made the buffalo extinct) people who were complicit in the destruction and trade of 99% of African animals. (The Chinese have only been in Africa properly for 10 years or so) ...and there is a lot of ivory in Europes stately homes, and also in Americas too...including the Whitehouse! If we hadn't killed so many for fun, to make umbrella stands, dominoes, pianos, letter openers, ornaments etc...things that are not in the picture. Which seems to be a display solely made up of African art...some as ancient as the congressional seal, Pianos or a White House paperweight, where is all that crap? or do they get excused because of historical significance? If so...why? When African art is deemed to be insignificant enough to be destroyed. So patronising.