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 This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.
The largest forest fires can start with a single spark. The same is true for revolutions – not just in the political sense, but also in the way we view and approach the world.
One year ago, the United States sparked the imagination and conscience of the world when we crushed more than six tons of seized illegal elephant ivory at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado on November 14, 2013.
|An industrial crusher destroys the ivory. Photo Credit: Kate Miyamoto/USFWS|
By crushing the ivory, which had been seized by our law enforcement officers during their investigations into illegal ivory trade, the United States stood up and assumed a leadership role in efforts to fight the poaching and trafficking crisis. Most of all, we gave crucial momentum to this struggle by acknowledging that the problem of poaching and trafficking isn’t just for African or Asian countries to solve. It’s our problem as Americans and global citizens.
Much of the world’s trade in wild animal and plant species – both legal and illegal – is driven by American 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 news has been grim in recent years. In 2013, more than 20,000 elephants were slaughtered in Africa for their ivory tusks – the latest victims of a decade-long massacre fueled by consumer demand for ivory. If trends continue, we could see the African elephant disappear from much of the continent within a decade and face eventual extinction.
So why am I optimistic that we’ve begun to turn the corner?
|On November 14, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed six tons of elephant ivory seized over the years by its special agents and wildlife inspectors in connection with violations of U.S. wildlife laws and treaties. Photo Credit: Ivy Allen/USFWS|
The ivory crush touched off a cascade of actions to help elephants and other species imperiled by poaching and wildlife trafficking. The list is impressive:
The crisis certainly isn’t over. But we’ve begun to change the global conversation about ivory – and its perception as a status symbol. More and more people across the world are coming to see ivory products for what they really are – emblems of avarice and callous indifference to suffering.
Of course, this issue is bigger than just elephants. Decades of international efforts to protect and restore wildlife populations are at risk. Rhinos, tigers and other iconic species will also vanish from the wild if current losses continue. That cannot be allowed to happen.
We’ve made enormous progress over the past year, but there’s so much more to do. You can help, by:
|Guest speakers prepare to load ivory into the crusher. Left to right: Dan Ashe - Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Judith Garber - Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Ginette Hemley - Senior Vice President, World Wildlife Fund - U.S., Azzedine Downes - President and CEO, International Fund for Animal Welfare, David J. Hayes - Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kristin Davis - Actress and Patron for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Dr. Paula Kahumbu - CEO of WildlifeDirect, Joely Fisher - Actress and IFAW Ambassador, Kristin Bauer - Actress and IFAW Ambassador, and Robert G. Dreher - Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice. Photo Credit: Gavin Shire/USFWS|
The ivory crush sparked a worldwide determination to act that is burning steadily one year later. With your support, that determination can spread and help elephants and other endangered wildlife thrive in the wild for generations to come.
Learn more about the U.S. ivory crush and our efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade here: http://www.fws.gov/le/elephant-ivory-crush.html.