Ivory Crushing Initiative Intended to Halt Elephant Poaching

Scott Brittenham serves as the CEO and co-founder of Clean Energy Capital, an investment company for biofuels and renewable chemicals in the biofuels industry. A frequent traveler to destinations outside the United States, Scott Brittenham recently made a South Africa safari trip on which he enjoyed the chance to see leopards and elephants in their natural environments. Currently listed as vulnerable, the African elephant population faces serious threat due to a steady rise in poaching activities for the ivory trade. In 2013, several nations worldwide stepped forward to address the crisis.

An estimate of 100,000 elephants died between the years of 2010 and 2012 due to poaching activities. With the demand for ivory at an all-time high, poaching now exceeds the natural reproduction rate of elephants. China holds the highest ivory consumer rate, which spiked from 5,000 ivory goods on the market in 2002 to almost 8,500 in 2014. Although the Chinese government permits the trade of ivory, it does not regulate the sale of ivory obtained through illegal poaching.

As a symbol of its stance against poaching and intolerance for illegal ivory trade, on November 14, 2013 the United States crushed six tons of contraband elephant ivory seized by Fish and Wildlife agents and wildlife inspectors over the previous 25 years. This destruction followed another public crushing in the Philippines earlier that year. Ivory crushing has occurred in approximately nine regions throughout North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Despite its high involvement with ivory trade, the Chinese government approved two ivory crushing initiatives in 2013.

Critics express mixed opinions regarding ivory crushing. While government officials and organizations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) believe the crushing sends the right message to poachers, other experts think differently. Those with opposing opinions fear the destruction might further spur the demand for ivory rather than dissuade.