Six tons of seized ivory tusks, carvings, and jewelry were crushed and destroyed Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other countries were asked to destroy their supplies.
The ivory had been collected over 25 years through smuggling raids and border searches, The Associated Press reported
, and was pulverized at the National Wildlife Property Repository, near Denver. The particles will be donated to a museum for display.
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The act was meant as a symbolic gesture to show that the material should no longer be used in a $10 billion commercial goods market. Despite the banning of ivory trading since 1989, domestic markets and lucrative black markets around the world still exist.
"We're sending a message to ivory traffickers and their customers that the United States will not tolerate this illegal trade," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife said in a statement posted on its website
. "We're standing with nations that have already destroyed their illegal ivory and showing our commitment to working with partners around the world to stop this trafficking and save elephants.
More than 30,000 elephants are killed by poachers each year for their tusks, and the numbers continue to rise, according to the agency. The practice threatens the animal's existence.
"Global demand for ivory continues to rise, and this demand is fueling a poaching epidemic of horrific proportions in Africa," agency Director Dan Ashe wrote in a blog post
. "Large-scale massacres have taken place in Chad, Cameroon, Gabon, and the Central African Republic in the past year, as well-armed and organized criminal enterprises have taken advantage of insufficient protection in remote areas.
"The loss of these animals is an unfolding ecological disaster. It's also a devastating blow for the people of Africa — many of whom make a living from tourism tied to elephants," he wrote.
Ashe said keeping stockpiles can keep demand alive for illegal souvenirs and trinkets taken from murdered elephants.
Before purging the supply, agency officials displayed thousands of confiscated items, such as tusks, statues, and ornaments — a collection they assert came from the death of more than 2,000 adult elephants.
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