"It's a stain on humanity," declares Richard Ruggiero, chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Africa, near East, and South Asia activities. He's talking about the fact that around the world, poachers killed more than 30,000 elephants for their tusks last year. If the hunting continues at current rates, experts say that wild elephants could go extinct in at least some parts of Africa within a decade. The poaching crisis has escalated in recent years due to a growing Asian middle class that values luxury products, but the United States remains one of the worst culprits--the No. 2 consumer, after China, of banned wildlife products.
In an effort to send a no-tolerance message and crack down on the illegal ivory trade (and perhaps encourage China and other countries to do the same), the United States destroyed a six-ton stockpile of confiscated ivory last week in Colorado. (See "Can the U.S. Pulverize Poaching?") The Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder captured the ivory crush in action, as well as reactions from Ruggiero and some other key figures in the battle against poaching.
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