ST. LOUIS – The Saint Louis Zoo has launched a new effort to save elephants from wildlife trafficking known as “Toss the Tusk.”

The zoo hosted “Toss the Tusk” on Friday ahead of World Elephant Day on Saturday. The effort encouraged visitors to participate in a fight to save elephants by handing over unwanted ivory pelts, animal artifacts, or parts of endangered animals. Zookeepers will hand over these items to federal law enforcement for safekeeping.

The effort was also meant to teach families about conservation and ivory trade within the United States. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also joined the Saint Louis Zoo in the effort.

“Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that impacts elephants and other imperiled species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The Service is committed to working with the AZA, WTA, and other partner organizations to reduce consumer demand for illegal wildlife products while facilitating the legal wildlife trade. By participating in Toss the Tusk events, members of the public can take an active role in combating wildlife trafficking, while ensuring that elephants and other at-risk species are protected and conserved for future generations.” 

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and its member facilities envision a world where all people respect, value, and conserve wildlife and wild places,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. “The Saint Louis Zoo, an AZA-accredited facility, is a leader in conservation which is underscored by their commitment to combat wildlife trafficking. I applaud their efforts to bring awareness to this important issue and provide members of their community with an actionable way to protect elephants and other endangered species from the illegal trade of wildlife.” 

As part of the event, guests were encouraged to turn in any materials from wildlife listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix I and Endangered Species Act (ESA). That includes items such as snakeskin from boa constrictors or pythons, macaw and cockatoo bird feathers and teeth from endangered shark species.