Watching — and listening to — a full-grown, adult elephant walk by is an incredible experience. At five to six tons, an elephant makes almost no noise when strolling across open territory — a remarkable feat when you consider the crushing weight each step places upon whatever is underfoot. The elephant´s foot is formed in such a way that it is essentially walking on tiptoe, with a tough and fatty part of connective tissue for the sole. This spongy “shock absorber” helps an elephant to move silently.
It may also surprise you to know that the United States remains an enormous market for illegal elephant ivory. The U.S. is second only to China in terms of the market for illegal wildlife products, such as rhino horn, tiger bone and ivory. Later this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) plans to destroy its stockpile of ivory — six tons of ivory objects seized upon entry into the U.S. since the late 1980s when ivory trade was banned. Blaming increased demand for a devastating rise in poaching, largely by organized crime syndicates, the Administration wants to send a message of zero tolerance and reduce the appeal of illicit animal products. (Click here for full story.)
Working with conservation organizations, the USFWS plans to crush the ivory, then use it to build memorials around the country against poaching. (Hopefully, they will mix the ivory with other materials like concrete so that the memorials aren’t prone to theft). I am anxious to know more about the plans for such memorials as many Americans remain complacent about ivory and the plight of the elephants. Too often, we are under the impression that this is a problem in Africa and Asia, but not here in the U.S. Let this be a wake-up call that our markets are part of the problem, and inspire us to help crush the demand for ivory and the poaching that feeds that demand.