Administration officials will crush six tons of ivory next week as part of a show of force against illegal wildlife trafficking.
The ivory is part of a cache the United States has confiscated over 25 years. The move is one of the first in a string of goals the Obama administration will tackle to combat wildlife trafficking, which has exponentially increased in recent years.
"In the past two years we have seen a dramatic escalation in wildlife trafficking that hasn't been seen in the past," said Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, at a press briefing on Tuesday. "This is very sophisticated, highly organized, syndicated trafficking."
The U.S. is the second largest consumer of illegally traded wildlife products behind China. Administration officials hope that by crushing the ivory it will send a signal to other countries that the U.S. does not value it as a product.
Agencies plan on reaching out to China and Thailand — both countries have strong cultural ties to ivory — in curbing demand for the product.
"This is no longer a conservation problem," said Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Jones said a partnership across U.S. agencies and with countries that are a part of the supply, demand and transit in the illegal trafficking chain will work together under the executive order issued by President Obama earlier this year.
"How do you reduce demand," Jones said. "With a full court press to address and stop the problem."