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US to destroy its ivory stockpile

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Five tonnes of illicit trinkets to go under the crusher, but legal muddles still allow US citizens to trade in ivory.

Behind the worldwide outcry about rhino poaching is another — and in many ways far more shocking — statistic. Every day, on average, three rhinos are butchered for their horns. But in that same day 96 elephants fall to poacher guns.

In Zimbabwe last month the crack of a rifle was replaced with a more deadly approach. Cyanide was used to poison a waterhole in Hwange National Park. So far more than 100 elephant carcasses have been found by park officials with their tusks cut out. A Hwange conservationist, who has received death threats so his name is withheld, claimed a link between local poachers, government officials and Chinese nationals.

There are estimated to be fewer than 460 000 elephants in the world and their numbers are declining fast. The sheer scale of their destruction in Africa has been ringing alarm bells among conservation organisations and, following US President Barak Obama’s visit to Africa, to the American government as well. This has led to the creation of a US Presidential Task Force to curb poaching and, next Friday (October 8), the US Fish and Wildlife Service will crush and destroy its stockpile around 5.4 tonnes of ivory seized in violation of wildlife laws. Obama has also called on all members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to do the same.

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