Illegal ivory awaits crushing in Denver, Colo., on Nov. 14.
Illegal ivory before it is crushed in Denver, Colo., on Nov. 14.
A worker examines crushed bits of ivory in Denver, Colo., on Nov. 14.
Six tons of ivory were crushed in Denver, Colo.
In the lead-up to the destruction of six tons of ivory on Nov. 14, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service granted access to the National Wildlife Property Repository in Denver, Colo. The warehouse is full of confiscated wildlife products, like these figurines carved from ivory. The U.S. is the second largest market for ivory in the world after China, according to activists.
Special Agent Steve Oberholtzer of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service holds the tusk of a very young elephant, while explaining that immature elephants are increasingly under threat from poachers. Elephants can live up to 70 years.
Boxes of figurines carved from ivory that have been collected over a period of 20 years sit in the main hall of the repository, waiting to be destroyed.
A piece of elephant bone. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which published a study into the illegal wildlife trade in June, calculates that an elephant dies to poaching every 15 minutes.
A global poaching crisis has decimated the population of African elephants. In April of this year, Kenya Wildlife Service rangers patrolled through Ramuruti forest in Laikipia, Kenya, on the trail of poachers. The area is a corridor for elephants.
The skeleton of a dead elephant in Kenya's Ramuruti forest. Upwards of 30,000 African elephants were slaughtered by poachers in 2012 — the largest number in decades.
Confiscated ivory sits on the desk of a Kenyan prosecutor. Until recently, the maximum fine for poaching in Kenya was 20,000 shillings and the maximum prison sentence was two years. With the introduction of a new wildlife bill, the poaching of elephants is considered to be an economic crime; both fines and sentencing are to be drastically increased.
Boxes of figurines carved from ivory, alongside tusks, sit in the main hall of the National Wildlife Property Repository.
A case full of jewelry carved from ivory sits on display in the repository.
The majority of ivory coming into U.S. territory falls into six general categories, according to the IFAW: Tusks, jewelry, trophies, carving, piano keys, and small pieces.
The National Wildlife Property Repository contains many other confiscated illegal wildlife products. In July, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing a Presidential Task Force to combat wildlife trafficking, which accounts for one of the largest illicit trades in the world.
Shelves filled with boots made from illegally-traded skins sit on display in the repository.
Shelves of tiger heads.
In the repository's education room, everything from rhino horn and ivory to illegal skins can be seen.
Photojournalist Kate Brooks has been covering the issue of poaching for the past year. Find out more about her forthcoming documentary film The Last Animals, which will investigate the fate of African elephants and rhinos.