"What the rich person demands, the poor poacher provides," Bergin said in a statement. "In between is a nefarious network of criminals, terrorists, rebels, and corrupted officials and business people only too eager to pilfer a slice of the pie."
The ivory crush will be a first for United States, but it follows similar acts by other countries. The Philippine government crushed and burned its ivory hoard earlier this year, and in 2012, and the Central African nation Gabon set fire to its confiscated ivory — all 10,637 lbs. (4,825 kilograms) of it.
Oftentimes destroying ivory isn't just a symbolic gesture. It can be costly to maintain and document the stockpiles and protect them from theft. According to the African Conservation Foundation, Tanzania spent $75,000 each year to secure its stockpile of 12,131 tusks.
The question of what to do with these stores, if not just destroy them, has sparked debate among conservationists in recent years. In 2007, CITES granted Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe an exception from the international ivory trade ban to make a one-off sale of their stockpiles to China and Japan, with the proceeds going to conservation efforts. But at the next CITES meeting, in 2010, Zambia and Tanzania sparked controversy with similar requests. Zambia eventually withdrew its bid and Tanzania's proposal didn't garner enough votes.
CITES, in their 2012 report on the poaching crisis, said researchers have not found a link between these one-off sales and the recent rise in elephant killings. And while AWF noted that successful conservation investments came out of those sales, the group is now encouraging countries to take a more unified stance on the illegitimacy of ivory.
More from LiveScience:
Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Original article on LiveScience.