International Society Condemns Crushing of Ivory in U.S.

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The crushing of 6 tons of ivory near Denver, Colorado, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today was condemned as a "wasteful public relations stunt" that won't meet the agency's stated goal of ending the killing of elephants that is feeding the illegal ivory trade.

"Poachers, ivory middlemen, workshops and retail outlets in Africa and Asia will actually get a very different message from the removal of 6 tons of ivory from the market -- that this precious material is getting scarcer and, as a result, prices must increase when demand remains unabated," said Godfrey Harris, a representative of the Political Action Network of the International Ivory Society.

"Is the U.S. government repeating the mistakes of Prohibition, when outlawing alcohol brought explosive growth in both drinking and criminal activity?" Harris asked. "We hope to work with an Obama administration task force to find ways to allow legitimate uses of ivory in the U.S. while enhancing American contributions to anti-poaching activity in Africa and to efforts to stabilize demand in East Asia."

The International Ivory Society, based in Florida, is a global organization composed of collectors, dealers, artisans, preservationists, and scholars. It strongly opposes the illegal trade of ivory products, but supports the exchange of legitimate ivory objects — those of historic, artistic, practical, and decorative interest from animals who have died of natural causes and from authorized culls. It also wants to preserve trade in antique ivory artifacts and ivory recycled from previous uses.

Ivory stockpiles were destroyed in Kenya in 2011, Gabon in 2012 and the Philippines in 2013. But those events haven't deterred poaching and the illegal trade of ivory, and raw ivory prices in China have doubled since 2011, Harris said.

"All governments ought to be doing everything they can to reduce the profit in illegal ivory sales by flooding the market with legal ivory to satisfy demand," he said. "When demand stabilizes or falls, the price of raw ivory is reduced dramatically and poachers can no longer reap attractive profits from their illicit and cruel activities."

Instead of destroying ivory, the U.S. government should be selling it to legitimate ivory interests, with proceeds used "to equip anti-poaching forces in Africa with effective tools to track, capture and try the criminal gangs and corrupt officials who are destroying elephant herds," Harris said.

Of the ivory being destroyed today, Harris asked, "Is there legal ivory in this mix? Are mammoth and boar pieces being tragically wasted? Are legitimate antiques involved? Who certified that everything being destroyed today is illegal ivory?"

CONTACT: Roger Gillott 310-826-8696 roger@gillottcommunications.comSource: Political Action Network ofInternational Ivory Society