U.S. crushes six tons of ivory

By Gloria Dickie

VO: For many conservationists, it’s the sound of change.

Hundreds gathered in Commerce City, Colorado Thursday for the destruction of six tons of ivory. The United States government has been stockpiling illegal ivory since the 1980s.

Director of Traffic North America Crawford Allan applauded the action the U.S. has taken in combating the illegal wildlife trade.

ALLAN: What this symbolizes is also that the United States is recognizing its role as a major consumer nation of ivory and it really doesn’t want to be part of that anymore. And it’s trying to make a difference. What this is about, I believe, is the U.S. government getting involved and saying it’s going to help.

VO: But some members of the community were divided on crushing a stockpile worth millions of dollars.

Kai Bernstein is a local elephant activist in Colorado. In early October Bernstein led Boulder’s International March for Elephants through the city’s downtown core.

But Bernstein has mixed feelings about the crush.

BERNSTEIN: It’s kind of a Catch 22, but personally I’d say just go ahead and sell it. Especially in respect to the elephants who died for all that ivory and you’re just going to burn it? It’s kind of a sad situation, in my opinion, I would get out there and distribute it. What are they going to do when all that ivory is gone? They’re going to get back out there and kill more elephants because there’s no more ivory to have. They’re not going to stop this trade.

VO: Even those working for U.S. Fish & Wildlife expressed dissatisfaction with the situation.

Richard Ruggiero is chief of the department’s African branch and has worked with elephants for more than 30 years.

RUGGIERO: Every time I see a tusk I see a failure of people in my field. I feel my own failure. Every time I see a tusk. That is the symptom of the disease. Every time you see a tusk that is a failure of people like myself who have dedicated our lives, professionally and personally, to keeping elephants alive.

VO:  With more than 30,000 elephants killed each year for their ivory, Thursday’s crush was only a small sample of global ivory traffic. But for those who have spent the past two decades on the frontlines, it was a memorable way to commemorate lives lost.

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