D.A. Cy Vance On Elephant Poaching (Yes, Elephant Poaching): "We Mean Business"
|Wildlife authorities estimate that about 25 elephants were killed to make the relatively small amount of trinkety crap spread out in front of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.|
Vance held a press conference this afternoon to announce the guilty pleas of two men charged with multiple elephant poaching-related crimes after authorities recovered more than $2 million in illegal ivory they'd been attempting to sell.
The two ivory dealers, 67-year-old Mukesh Gupta and 56-year-old Johnson Jung-Chien Lu, won't face any jail time for the roughly 30 elephants that were killed to obtain the ivory recovered by authorities, but they will forfeit the pricey ivory to authorities and each pay a $45,000 fine, which will be donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Despite each of the men having been convicted of felonies, Vance says no jail time is the "appropriate resolution for this case" to avoid a potentially lengthy trial with no guarantee of a tougher sentence.
Under New York law, it's illegal to sell things made out of endangered or threatened species -- like the African and Asian elephants slaughtered for the ivory in their tusks -- without a permit guaranteeing that the killing of the animal occurred before it was added to the Endangered Species list. Asian elephants were added to the list in 1976. The African elephant was listed as a threatened species in 1976.
According to wildlife officials, 2011 was the worst year in elephant deaths since the 1989 ivory ban, with an estimated 634 elephants killed for their tusks.
Between 2002 and 2006, four of every 10 dead elephants were killed by poachers, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization. In 2011, eight out of every 10 dead elephants were killed by poachers.
Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President for Conservation John Robinson says the ivory recovered from Gupta and Lu likely came from Thailand, China, or Japan. He says most of the carving also is done in the far East before it is shipped to places like New York City, where unassuming consumers purchase the blood ivory.
"Look at the size of those tusks -- they are small elephants in many of these cases," he says while gesturing to dozens of ivory trinkets spread across a table in front of him.
Vance says there's a chance other prosecutions of people associated with the trafficking of the ivory could stem from the convictions of Gupta and Lu, but would not elaborate.
"Prosecutions don't occur unless you develop the investigative efforts," he says. "We're developing the investigative efforts. And I think you can see that we mean business."