COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The U.S. is trying to send a message to poachers and smugglers across the world. And it's happening right here in the Denver metro area.
On Thursday morning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed more than six tons of confiscated ivory at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to support a fight against a $10 billion industry.
All that ivory was stored at the Federal Center in Lakewood. Federal officials hauled it to Commerce City Thursday morning. The ivory was then destroyed with rock crushers Thursday afternoon.
The six tons that was destroyed is the bulk of the country's "blood ivory" stockpile.
Officials say the confiscated ivory piled up during the past 25 years. The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban went into effect in 1989.
Experts say elephant poaching is at an all-time high, with up to 50,000 elephants in Africa killed every year for their tusks.
“It's really a tragedy to think that a majestic African Elephant could be regulated to nothing more than piano keys or jewelry around one's neck,” Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, said. “But that's still happening today.
“We have to send a clear message to poachers and smugglers around the world that ivory is not meant for the marketplace.”
Officials say elephant poaching continues to be problem because of growing demand in the United States and in Asia.
It's seen as a status symbol among the newly rich in China. A pound of ivory sells for $1,000 on the streets of Beijing.
Groups like Born Free USA say a tougher global ban on the ivory trade could dry up the markets and bottom-out the prices, and that's something they're still lobbying for.
The ivory that was crushed Thursday represents roughly 2,000 slaughtered elephants. It will eventually be displayed to raise awareness.