The Crush on Wildlife

Posted by John Kerry
November 14, 2013
Carved Ivory Tusks To Be Crushed at National Wildlife Property Repository in Colorado

Today, in Denver, the Department of the Interior is destroying the United States' entire stock of confiscated contraband ivory -- totaling nearly six tons.

With this action, the United States is sending a simple but powerful message to the sadistic poachers who kill elephants and other animals, and to all the traffickers who transport illicit cargo and the consumers who purchase these illicit goods: "You cannot and must not mistake our seriousness."

We're not in this fight alone. We are building on the work of Kenya, Gabon, and the Philippines, which have destroyed their ivory stocks in recent years. We encourage other countries to take a strong stand against wildlife trafficking by destroying their ivory stockpiles.

But make no mistake: The world needs to do more. Time is not on our side.

One night last year, American scientists at the Dzangha-Bai reserve in the Central African Republic were forced to abandon a long-term elephant research site in the middle of the night due to instability in the area. When they returned the following day, the scientists discovered an unspeakable scene: The herd of elephants they had observed for decades was dead and tusk-less.

Criminals had shot the defenseless elephants from the very research platform where they had been studied for so many years.

This is not an isolated incident. When my wife Teresa and I visited a wildlife preserve and went on safari in 2007, I heard tragic story after story of similar episodes. Last year, we held the Foreign Relations Committee's first ever hearing on wildlife trafficking to underscore the extent of the crisis.

Slaughters of wildlife have grown exponentially. The scale, pace, and sophistication of elephant and rhino poaching are accelerating at a devastating pace. Not only are these majestic animals disappearing before us, as poachers grow in sophistication and firepower, this explosion in trafficking undermines the stability and security of range states, and imperils those whose livelihoods depend on these great creatures and ecosystems.

We do not have the luxury of time. We must act urgently and raise public awareness.

Just yesterday, on November 13, I announced a reward of up to $1 million for information to help dismantle the Xaysavang Network, one of the most prolific wildlife trafficking organizations currently in operation. This is the first reward offer under our Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program. Criminals and their accomplices are on notice.

And it's not just elephants and rhinos on the losing side of the rifles and machine guns. The accelerating demand for animal skin, pelts, bones and organs is decimating species across the world. When one species is gone, poachers move onto the next. If the current trajectory continues, many of these animals will go extinct during my grandchildren's lifetimes.

Reducing demand is part of any successful strategy to meet this challenge.

Consumers can and must be partners with governments in disrupting the market incentives for traffickers. Because the reality is that prices for ivory and rhino horn are skyrocketing, which in turn leads to the knock down effects of more involvement of transnational organized criminals and other destabilizing elements, more corruption, and more collateral damage. Illicit funds allow poachers to ramp up their firepower and employ ruthless tactics that jeopardize communities and rule of law in countries across the globe. In Africa, poachers kill more than one hundred park rangers in the line of duty annually.

Wildlife trafficking is a conservation problem, an economic problem, a health problem, and a security problem. Our governments and citizens cannot afford to stand idle while poachers and wildlife traffickers destabilize whole regions, undermine economic development, and hunt elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears, sharks, or any species to extinction. Leaders everywhere must step up and meet the challenge of rooting out the corruption, graft, and complicity in the system that threaten all of us. The United States is committed to doing our part. Let's move forward.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears on The Huffington Post.

Comments

Comments

Rosemary A.
|
California, USA
November 14, 2013
Thank you Secretary of State Kerry! Mahalo nui loa. The USA and the world thanks you. The elephants thank you. We must do more, the US is the second largest market for ivory. Please move to ban the sale of ivory in this great nation. Thank you.
Maureen O.
|
California, USA
November 14, 2013
Thank you taking a strong stance on combatting wildlife trafficking but allowing the sale of ivory in the U.S. sends a mixed signal to the public. It also allows for illegal ivory to be sold under the cover of "pre-1987 ivory" or "antique ivory." The U.S. government must issue a moratorium on the sale of ALL ivory immediately.
Judith R.
|
Colorado, USA
November 14, 2013
Thank you for crushing the US ivory stockpile, it is a great statement that we do not tolerate poaching. However, we need to have a nationwide BAN on the sale of ANY IVORY in our country! This is the only way to truly end the ivory trade before the elephants become extinct. I know that is out of your authority to do this but you can get the "ball rolling". Please help us save elephants from extinction! Thank you again for your commitment to this matter. Sincerely, Judith Reynolds
Ayan S.
|
Georgia, USA
November 14, 2013
Completely support this message to the rest of this world. I hope that the rest of the world takes a similar strategy.
Barbra E.
|
California, USA
November 14, 2013
Thank you and I hope we see FAST change.
Abhi K.
|
California, USA
November 15, 2013
This is a very good first step. But moving forward, we need to stop ivory sales altogether in US. Bogus CITES certificates allow ivory to enter US; we need to close down that pre-1989 loophole. Ultimately, the survival of elephants depends on China shutting down its ivory carving factories. The international community must exert pressure on China to this effect.
Marilyn C.
|
Massachusetts, USA
November 15, 2013
Thank you so much for this action, and the statement as to why is was done. It is hugely gratifying to see USA take this stand. There is another critical action needed, and that is to ban outright all sales of ivory. It is time. There can be no justification for the continued selling of elephant teeth. We will lose them. USA is listed as the second highest demand nation, it must end. We have to set the example and lead the way in this war against wildlife annihilation. Again, thank you for what you have already done.
Maureen V.
|
Massachusetts, USA
November 21, 2013
One is left with feelings of remorse for the fate of these dignified, majestic animals being left for dead over the latest human fettish. It is shameful and beyond. Secretary of State Kerry and his personal account has so well expressed the need to act and stop looking the other way. Thank you. In an effort to educate perhaps the U.S. government could sponsor a project by making use of the crushed stock of contraband ivory in a significantly symbolic way that at the same time memorializes these vulnerable creatures and conveys humanity's deep need and desire to value the continued existence of living creatures. For example, inspiration could be drawn from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and how that came to be.

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