Association of Zoos & Aquariums, AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announce public events that draw attention to the elephant poaching crisis and illegal trade of elephant ivory in the United States.
Silver Spring, Md. [February 15, 2023] – To help raise awareness about the devastating effects of elephant poaching, a series of ivory surrender events will occur across the United States in 2023. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are teaming up to organize the events, which will encourage the public to join the fight to help save elephants from wildlife trafficking.
Taking place at three leading zoos accredited by AZA – San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Dallas Zoo, and Saint Louis Zoo – the public will be able to bring their unwanted ivory to be properly disposed of.
“Worldwide demand for ivory is decimating elephant populations and supporting international criminal syndicates around the globe,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. “AZA and WTA are honored to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and three world-class AZA-accredited zoos on these important public events. In a very real way, consumers hold the key to ending the scourge of wildlife trafficking. By putting our actions in line with our values, we can work together to protect this treasured species today and for and future generations.”
Thousands of elephants are killed each year to fuel the global demand for ivory. As a result, African elephant populations alone have fallen from an estimated 12 million a century ago to around 415,000 individuals as of 2016. Due to of global conservation efforts, poaching rates have been slightly, yet steadily, declining over the past few years across Africa. However, we are still losing elephants faster than they can reproduce. International commercial trade in elephant ivory is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In the United States, elephants are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The African Elephant Conservation Act and other laws further restrict the ivory trade.
In 2016, a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory went into effect in the United States. However, these regulations do not restrict the personal possession of ivory. So if you already own ivory, such as an heirloom carving that’s been passed down in your family or a vintage musical instrument with ivory components, you can still legally own those pieces.
"Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that impacts elephants, and other imperiled species, throughout the world," said Martha Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The Service is committed to working with the AZA, WTA, and other partner organizations, to reduce consumer demand for illegal wildlife products while facilitating the legal wildlife trade. By participating in Toss the Tusk events, members of the public can take an active role in combating wildlife trafficking while ensuring that elephants, and other at-risk species, are protected and conserved for future generations.”
We must act quickly and effectively to secure a future for elephants. But most importantly, we must act together. By surrendering elephant ivory, you ensure that these products will never be made available for sale. Removing ivory products from the market can keep these majestic animals alive for generations to come.
The 2023 event series follows previous Toss the Tusk events at eight AZA-accredited U.S. zoos between 2019 and 2021. Combined, those events collected over 600 unwanted wildlife items from the public.
The 2023 Toss The Tusk events will happen in the following locations:
About the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.
About AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA)
The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is a coalition of over 90 nonprofit organizations, companies, and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, working together to combat illegal wildlife trade around the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org/wildlife-trafficking-alliance.
About U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
If you encounter potential wildlife crime, please report it to the Service’s wildlife trafficking tips line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477) or online at: Wildlife Crime Tips. If your tip leads to an arrest, or other substantial action, you may receive a financial reward.
Contact: Christina Meister, USFWS, 703.358.2284; email@example.com