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
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
CNN's Will Ripley travels to North Korea, visiting an international wrestling festival and a slide-filled water park, said to be a pet project of secretive young leader Kim Jong Un.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
In a raid on a luxury apartment complex in France, agents caught up with Ibrahim Boudina, a French-Algerian man they accuse of bringing back Syrian-schooled terror to Europe.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT