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NC Zoo to burn nearly $1M worth of ivory, horns to raise awareness of plight of elephants, rhinos

ASHEBORO, N.C. — The illegal sale of ivory and rhino horn threatens the survival of both elephants and rhinos. The North Carolina Zoo is planning a dramatic event to raise public awareness about the problem.

As part of the celebration of International Elephant Day on Aug. 12, the zoo, in a demonstration of solidarity with elephant and rhino conservation programs around the world, will burn more than 200 pounds of elephant tusks and rhino horn valued at nearly a million dollars.

“The blunt facts are that ivory comes from dead elephants, rhino horns come from dead rhinos and these commodities have value. So this is really symbolic,” said Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis. “By incinerating this mass of ivory and rhino horn we are taking these things that are valuable on the black market and we are rendering them valueless.”

The North Carolina Zoo has been heavily involved in elephant conservation in Central Africa since 1998.

“In my work in Cameroon, I’ve seen the carnage. Since about 2000, 60 percent of the elephants have been killed, mostly by poachers. If these levels of poaching continue, elephants will no longer be in the wild and that would be a major tragedy.” Loomis said.

By destroying the elephant tusks and rhino horn, the zoo hopes to send a strong message to the international community about the need to curtail the black market of animal artifacts that help to destroy wild populations.

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