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Ton Of Ivory Crushed To Signal U.S. Crackdown On Illegal Trade (PHOTOS)

06/19/2015 04:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2015

ivory crush

One ton of confiscated ivory trinkets were crushed to bits in New York's Times Square on Friday morning as part of the government's attempt to stamp out the thriving, illegal trade.

Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services pulverized the elephant-derived goods with a 44-foot-long by 13-foot-wide machine used for crushing rocks while a number of conservation groups looked on with approval.

“Today the United States sent a strong message that it will not tolerate wildlife crime," World Wildlife Fund president and CEO Carter Roberts told The Huffington Post in a statement. "For Africa’s vanishing elephants, these are the most desperate of times and more needs to be done."

Trailing only China, the U.S. is home to the world's second-largest ivory market, with New York City leading the U.S. in illegal imports.

The U.S. has banned the import of all raw ivory and products made from ivory harvested after 1976. The country also outlawed the domestic sale any ivory imported after 1990.

But wildlife groups studying the industry have found that merchants easily lie about their products' origins.

African elephant populations have dropped from 1.2 million in 1989 to just 420,000 in 2012, largely because of poachers killing the gentle giants so that manufacturers can carve their tusks into trinkets and other decorative art pieces. In recent weeks, studies showed that half of Mozambique's elephant population and 60 percent of Tanzania's were wiped out in the past five years.

The state of elephant populations inspired a similar ivory crush in China last month, where officials announced the country's pledge to phase out all ivory sales.

"The US must do the same, urgently,” Roberts wrote.

See photos from the Times Square ivory crush below.

  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Over one ton of ivory, confiscated by law enforcement, sits on display before being destroyed in Times Square.
  • Jon Cass/World Wildlife Fund
    Confiscated ivory carved into animal figurines and other characters sits in Times Square before being crushed into dust.
  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroy ivory trinkets confiscated by law enforcement in Times Square.
  • Jon Cass/World Wildlife Fund
    Event attendees call attention to the ivory industry's disastrous effects on elephant populations.
  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Actress Kristin Davis helps officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroy ivory trinkets confiscated by law enforcement.
  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Over one ton of ivory, confiscated by law enforcement, sits on display before being destroyed in Times Square.
  • Jon Cass/World Wildlife Fund
    Carved ivory awaits its fate in Times Square.
  • Jon Cass/World Wildlife Fund
    Onlookers photograph a piece of carved ivory as it makes its way toward the pulverizing machine.
  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service destroy ivory trinkets confiscated by law enforcement in Times Square on June 19, 2015 in New York City.
  • Megan Maher/WCS
    A crowd gathers in Times Square to watch the ivory crush.
  • Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
    An ivory trinket is loaded onto the machine.
  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Ivory dust, created by destroyed ivory trinkets confiscated by law enforcement, sits in a bucket in Times Square.
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