NEW YORK, New York, June 20, 2015 (ENS) – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell Friday joined U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and other leaders to destroy more than one ton of confiscated elephant ivory in New York’s Times Square, dramatizing the Obama Administration’s zero tolerance of wildlife crimes that threaten to wipe out the African elephant.

The crush was conducted in partnership with the State of New York, the Wildlife Conservation Society and New York State Senator Democrat Brad Hoylman of Manhattan.

“I wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to request an ivory crush in Times Square in my district because New York City is the epicenter of the illegal ivory trade,” said Hoylman. “An elephant is killed every 15 minutes. If we are to protect this magnificent species from extinction we need to raise awareness about the trade of illegal ivory and choke off consumer demand.”

An industrial rock crusher, donated by Powerscreen, smashed the raw and carved ivory tusks and statues before an audience of thousands that included environmentalists from the African Wildlife Foundation; The Humane Society of the United States; the International Fund for Animal Welfare; the Natural Resources Defense Council; and the World Wildlife Fund.

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Interior Secretary Sally Jewell sends carved elephant tusks into the crusher in New York’s Times Square, June 19, 2015 (Photo courtesy DOI)

“Today’s ivory crush serves as a stark reminder to the rest of the world that the United States will not tolerate wildlife crimes, especially against iconic and endangered animals,” said Secretary Jewell. “The message is loud and clear: this administration will stop the poachers in their tracks, stop the profits and work with our international partners to protect our global natural heritage.”

The U.S. move comes weeks after China, the world’s biggest market for illegal ivory, pledged to phase out processing and sale on its legal, domestic ivory market, which can mask the trade in smuggled ivory.

The pledge was made at an ivory crushing event May 29 in Beijing where about 1,500 pounds of raw and carved ivory was pulverized.

“We will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted,” said Zhao Shucong, head of China’s State Forestry Administration, at the event.

China’s pledge follows a one-year moratorium on the import of carved ivory, announced by Chinese officials last February. The May 29 ivory crushing event was the second one in China. In 2014, the government crushed 6.1 tons of ivory.

Cristián Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates New York’s zoos and aquarium, said, “For a brief moment, Times Square stood still for Africa’s elephants.”

“The United States staged this event at its most famous address where messages speak their loudest – two stories high and in lights. And today’s message is this: We plan to crush the ivory trade and crush the profits of the traffickers.”

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Confiscated ivory carvings crushed by the U.S. government in 2013 (Photo courtesy USFWS)

“The United States today was not just crushing ivory from poached elephants – it was crushing the bloody ivory market. It was declaring that we will join many other nations to do our part in ending this crisis,” said Samper.

Kenya started the ivory crushing movement in 1989, Zambia followed in 1992; and in the past five years other countries have joined the movement: Kenya 2011; Gabon, 2012; United States, 2013; Philippines, 2013; Belgium, Chad, China 2014 and 2015, France, Hong Kong, 2014; and Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, China, United Arab Emirates, and the United States so far this year.

“Governments, NGOS, and communities are uniting across continents to quash this crime, which threatens both elephants as well as rangers and local communities,” Samper said. “It is more important than ever that all the good will seen in the global movement to end this crisis must be channeled to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand. We must work across the entire chain of this crime, across the globe.”

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