Skip to main content

U.S. destroys tons of elephant ivory; offers $1 million bounty on traffickers

By Faith Karimi, CNN
November 15, 2013 -- Updated 0454 GMT (1254 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: It's the first time the U.S. has offered such a reward, John Kerry says
  • NEW: In addition to the reward, Colorado wildlife officials destroyed six tons of elephant ivory
  • NEW: The United States is the second-largest retail market for illegally acquired ivory, after China
  • Profits from wildlife trafficking are between $8 billion to $10 billion a year

(CNN) -- The message is simple: stop wildlife trafficking.

And to highlight it, the United States destroyed tons of elephant ivory it has seized over the years -- and will pay out $1 million to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Hours before the destruction of the stockpile in Colorado Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the reward money to help dismantle elephant and rhino trafficking syndicates.

It's the first time the United States has offered such a reward, he said.

China's craze kills Africa's elephants
Ivory demand fuels elephant poaching

Kerry said the bounty will target the Xaysavang Network, a wildlife trafficking syndicate based in Laos, which has affiliates in South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

"The involvement of sophisticated transnational criminal organizations in wildlife trafficking perpetuates corruption, threatens the rule of law and border security in fragile regions, and destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for biodiversity and eco-tourism," Kerry said.

Profits from animal trafficking are between $8 billion to $10 billion a year, most of which are used to fund narcotics and human trafficking, according to Kerry.

Commercial ivory trade was banned in the United States in 1989. The crushing of the six-ton stockpile of elephant ivory near Denver is the first time the U.S. has destroyed such large quantities.

The ivory was seized and maintained as evidence until court trials were completed. Once the cases were concluded, some of it was used for training law enforcement officers.

"Over the past 25 years, we have accumulated far more elephant ivory than we can use for these purposes, and decided to destroy this material as a demonstration of our commitment to combating wildlife trafficking," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

"We want to send a clear message that the United States will not tolerate ivory trafficking and the toll it is taking on elephant populations, particularly in Africa."

The illegal ivory trade has doubled worldwide since 2007, with the United States the second-largest retail market for illegally acquired ivory. China is the largest market.

Poaching of the rhino horn is also a lucrative industry. Much of the loot is sold to the affluent in Asia, where some believe the horns cure a series of ills, including cancer and hangovers, and can boost virility.

Last year alone, about 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa -- the highest number in two decades. Some rhinoceros subspecies have been declared extinct.

Conservation groups say the recent surge in the illicit ivory trade has resulted in the killing of 30,000 African elephants annually in recent years.

Other nations including the Philippines, Kenya and Gabon have destroyed large quantities of ivory in recent years.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT