‘Poachers Should Not Have a Market in Manhattan’
While an off-duty fish and wildlife service inspector was shopping in midtown Manhattan’s bustling district, she spotted a variety of ivory colored trinkets in a jeweler’s window carved in the form of bangles, necklaces, and animal figurines. The bone-carved items were indeed made of African and Asian elephant tusks, which spurred investigations by the State Department of Environmental Conservation and later led to the seizing of $2 million worth of ivory.
Two men who owned jewelry shops in Manhattan, New York pled guilty after their stores were seized of the illicit ivory on Thursday. This marked one of largest ivory seizures in the state of New York.
“We’re here today because poachers of endangered species, who profit from wildlife crime, should not have a market in Manhattan,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said at a news conference.
A total of one ton of ivory was being sold collectively between the two stores- Raja Jewelers and New York Jewelry Mart.
Mukesh Gupta, owner of Raja Jewels, dodged jail time and probation by forfeiting the $2 million in ivory “merchandise” and agreeing to pay a fine of $45,000, which will go straight to the Wildlife Conservation Society
Rings, toys, bracelets, and statuettes made of ivory were intriqitley placed side by side in an emblematic display of the merciless and bloody elephant killings that occur in Asia and Africa each year. Poachers are not letting up and have increased their efforts as the affluence in Asian countries grows and better shipping methods are developed.
As early as the 1970’s, elephants roamed the desert plains and miombo woodlands of Africa boasting an impressive population of 1.2 million in the wild. Between 1970-1985 these populations were cut in half almost solely due to mass herd killings carried out by poachers. Elephants were being slaughtered by the hundreds each day before an ivory ban went into effect in 1989. Sadly, ivory poaching is currently on the rise again with 2011 being the worst year on record since the international ivory ban was established.
“In 23 years of compiling ivory-seizure data…this is the worst year ever for large ivory seizures,” Tom Milliken, manager of TRAFFIC’s Elephant Trade Information System, said in a prepared statement. Now there are only 450,000 African elephants left in existence. The International Union currently lists them as “vulnerable” to extinction on their “Red list” of threatened species for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Asian elephants are considered “endangered” with only 40,000-50,000 believed left in the world.
The tragic slaughtering of 400 elephants in Cameroon National Park last year was a good example of national officials doing too little too late. It was described as one of the worst massacres in decades as poachers rode in on horses and killed almost half the population in the park. The dead elephant carcasses were strewn about the park with not a single consequence enacted against those who committed the senseless crimes.
Although there has been a rapid growth in ivory trafficking due to a surge in Chinese demand, there is still a lucrative market here in the U.S. according to experts. With weak laws and loopholes in the legal ivory trade in China, there is no telling when the fatalities will stop.
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