On Assignment: The Times Square #IvoryCrush


Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to photograph the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Times Square Ivory Crush with the African Wildlife Foundation. Both the pre-crush reception at Tavern on the Green and the main crush event drew leaders of the world's biggest conservation organizations, celebrities and politicians together. Though not the first ivory crush the USFWS has held in the U.S., the choice to hold the event in Times Square made this crush even more unique.

On the day of the crush, I woke up early to enter Time Square before the crowds and to figure out my plan for the day. I'd reviewed footage of the 2013 Denver ivory crush to make sure I had some idea of what to expect. The machine resembles a giant wood-chipper, really.

Because Times Square is one of the biggest tourist attractions in New York City, I also wanted to be sure I was in all the right places at the right times. I knew taking my shots around some of the bigger, aggressive members of the press would be a bit of a challenge.

At both events, I really enjoyed spending time with the crew from The Elephant Pants (above), who sell (you guessed it!) cute, comfy Thai-style elephant print pants. $1 or $2 from each purchase with The Elephant Pants is donated to the African Wildlife Foundation.

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Actress Kristin Davis was on hand, sharing insight from her film Gardeners of Eden, a behind-the-scenes look at Kenya's David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. I also happened to meet one of my biggest inspirations, Beverly Joubert. She and her husband Derek (also above) are award-winning wildlife photographers and conservationists. They're also the founders of Great Plains Conservation, a portfolio of conservation camps and lodges in Botswana and Kenya I highly recommend.

I ran around documenting the event for hours, both with my camera and on social media (including Periscope). It was such a thrill capturing this historic day as the events unfolded.

It was really something to witness these conservation organizations, who typically fundraise in competition with one another, come together in support of this issue. It's encouraging to see everyone working to to fight problems like poaching & illegal wildlife trafficking on many fronts, including right here in the U.S., the second-largest ivory retail market.

It reminded me of the African proverb:

If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.

For more thoughts on my participation last week, please see my Ivory Crush blog post for the African Wildlife Foundation, or search Twitter for the hashtags #IvoryCrush and #CrushTheTrade