Asheboro, NC - To help raise awareness about the plight of elephants and rhinos in the wild, North Carolina Zoo staff will destroy elephant ivory and rhino horns it holds on Aug. 12, in conjunction with World Elephant Day.

Last year more than 30,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos, about 5 percent of the world population, were killed and their ivory and horns sold on the illegal market mostly in Asia. Poaching of these endangered species has increased alarmingly in recent years as prices for ivory and horns have skyrocketed. As a result, poaching is mainly conducted by globally organized criminal gangs and helps finance drug trafficking and terrorism. Experts predict that if poaching is not stopped, elephants and rhinos could be extinct within 30 years. In most countries, it is illegal to sell ivory and rhino horns. On the Asian illegal market, the North Carolina Zoo’s holdings would sell for more than $1 million.

“We want to make the point that these animal parts should be worthless,” said Dr. David Jones, director of the zoo. “Ivory is the same material as our teeth and rhino horns the same as our fingernails. We are close to losing some of the world’s most iconic animals and in America we are just not recognizing the severity of this situation.”

On Aug. 12, members of the media are invited to the zoo as the staff plans to incinerate more than 200 pounds of elephant ivory and rhino horns. Reporters wishing to cover this event should meet at the zoo’s Stedman Education Center at 10 a.m. This event is not open to the public.

Beyond raising awareness through this event, the zoo is involved in saving rhinos and elephants in the wild. Zoo staff works to stop poaching in a variety of ways, including placing satellite tracking collars on elephants in Cameroon and Nigeria while providing training and equipment for park rangers. The zoo has also partnered with other conservation organizations from around the world to develop a software system that allows rangers to plan, monitor and evaluate anti-poaching efforts.

“Our zoo has a lot invested in elephants and rhinos,” Jones said. “The world will be a very sad place if we lose these amazing animals. We must all act now!”

The North Carolina Zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.