NEW YORK (AP) — Over a ton of confiscated ivory tumbled off a conveyor belt into a rock crusher in Times Square on Friday in a symbolic display highlighting an illegal trade that activists say threatens the survival of African elephants.
The Wildlife Conservation Society says the global ivory trade is responsible for the slaughter of as many as 35,000 elephants a year in Africa.
“Crushing ivory in Times Square — literally at the crossroads of the world — says in the clearest of terms that the U.S. is serious about closing its illegal ivory markets and stopping the demand,” said John Calvelli, the society’s executive vice president for public affairs.
U.S. and state government officials, conservationists, animal-welfare advocates and tourists gathered to watch as hundreds of ivory trinkets were turned into a powder that fed into a trough, waiting to be trucked away.
The event was organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York state agencies and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs New York City’s zoos.
Actress Kristen Davis, a longtime advocate for elephants known for her role in the HBO show “Sex and the City,” said at the event no one should ever buy ivory even if a dealer says it’s an antique.
“We are going to lose elephants in 10 years if we don’t do something, which means that our children will never know that elephants roamed the planet in the wild as they should,” Davis said.
The crush was one of several ivory destruction events that have been held around the world to stigmatize the ivory trade.
The Times Square ivory will be combined with the 6 tons that was crushed in Denver in 2013 and used to create a memorial to elephants.
Officials said they are committed to fighting the ivory trade not just to protect elephants but to combat terrorists who profit from elephant poaching.
“Animal trafficking, we now know, is funding those dangerous groups out there,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a Long Island Democrat. “It is a source of revenue for terrorist groups around the world.”
Much of the ivory destroyed Friday was confiscated from Philadelphia antiques dealer Victor Gordon, officials said.
Gordon was sentenced in federal court in June 2014 to 2 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $157,500 in fines and forfeitures for smuggling ivory into the U.S.