Inside a government warehouse in Denver, Colorado sat six tons of illegal elephant ivory. On November 14, all of it was be crushed in the jaws of a rock-crushing machine. President Obama insisted upon this course of action, and “the crush” was done in front of visiting foreign dignitaries, as well as TV cameras. The hope is that the President’s dedication to ending the illegal ivory trade will inspire other world leaders to do the same, as well as send a message to illegal traffickers that the trade will soon grind to a halt. Those six tons of ivory, however, represent only a small fraction of the ivory circulating through the back channels of the illegal market.
One way to combat the poaching is to pass laws making the trade less profitable and increase the penalty for those guilty, and the Obama administration is beginning to do just that. Unfortunately, elephants have already been pushed to the edge. Every day, roughly 100 elephants are killed for their ivory, feeding the voracious $10 billion dollar industry. With a new surge in demand, traffickers now have the means to poach elephants using more advanced methods. In Zimbabwe, poachers killed 300 elephants using cyanide.
Aside from the obvious detriment to elephants, some nations descending into terrorist-induced chaos also have the ivory trade to blame. Al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization that attacked the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi, obtains 40% of its funds from ivory blood money. In 2012, incumbent secretary of state Hillary Clinton became so concerned with the terrorism link that she declared wildlife trafficking a national security threat.