Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.
“I meant what I said
And I said what I meant…
An elephant’s faithful
One hundred per cent!”
-- Horton the elephant in Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Horton sits on that bird egg, not because it is easy or fun, but because he made a promise to Mayzie the lazy bird.
We, too, have a promise to keep: to conserve the elephant, whose situation grows more dire with each day.
That is why today we are crushing the six tons of ivory seized by our law enforcement division for violations of U.S. wildlife laws over the past 25 years.
Thousands of elephants were slaughtered to harvest the cold, lifeless pile of tusks, figures, trinkets and jewelry we are crushing.
Global demand for ivory continues to rise, and this demand is fueling a poaching epidemic of horrific proportions in Africa. Large-scale massacres have taken place in Chad, Cameroon, Gabon and the Central African Republic in the past year, as well-armed and organized criminal enterprises have taken advantage of insufficient protection in remote areas.
The loss of these animals is an unfolding ecological disaster. It’s also a devastating blow for the people of Africa -– many of whom make a living from tourism tied to elephants.
Destroying this ivory will signal to the world our unflagging resolve as a nation to halt the slaughter of elephants and other imperiled wildlife, and encourage other nations to do the same.
It will show the world that our nation will not tolerate wildlife crime that threatens to wipe out any species.
Some argue that the seized ivory should be sold to alleviate the demand for ivory.
Decades of experience shows that allowing ivory to enter legal trade only makes enforcement harder, by giving traffickers ways to disguise sources of poached ivory.
It also fuels demand, maintaining the perception that ivory is a status symbol, rather than an emblem of greed and callous indifference to life.
Much of the world’s trade in wild animal and plant species – both legal and illegal – is driven by U.S. consumers or passes through our ports on the way to other nations.
We have a moral obligation to respond, and a key role to play. The criminals have raised their game. We are doing the same.
|Some of the seized ivory. Credit: USFWS|
The Executive Order issued by President Obama in July has spurred the federal government to expand coordinated efforts to combat poaching and trafficking.
We’ve engaged the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to develop a government-wide strategy that will leverage resources and expertise to crack down on poaching and trafficking for elephants and hundreds of species.
We’re working with law enforcement agencies around the globe to arrest poachers and wildlife traffickers and build the capacity of range state game agencies to protect their wildlife.
We’re providing critical financial and technical support for on-the-ground efforts to save elephants and other wildlife and their habitats, and to reduce the demand for wildlife products.
The good news is that there is still time to save these iconic species. And you can help.
We hope the crushed ivory will be used to design memorials, which will help educate and build awareness about the plight these animals are facing.
To borrow from David Attenborough, it would be a real tragedy if future generations know about elephants only by reading Dr. Seuss.