On Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, the state of New York crushed its stockpile of nearly 2 tons of confiscated elephant ivory into dust. It was my third such event to photograph in four years. In New York City's iconic Central Park, hundreds of pieces made from elephants' tusks were laid out side by side like tombstones for the elephants they once were. I passed by this elephant graveyard, deeply saddened to see that things made from small tusks completely outnumbered large ones. These, I knew, once belonged to the youngest elephants.
African elephants remain in a crisis driven by the demand for ivory. Passing laws that ban ivory sales will help to conserve one of the world's most iconic species from extinction. Greater communication will bridge the chasm in which protection and killing of elephants for their tusks reflect competing cultural values.
With as many as 96 elephants being killed each day in Africa, we don't have much time before our last remaining elephants are gone.
Julie Larsen Maher is staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the first woman to hold the position since the society's founding in 1895. In addition to field visits, Maher photographs the animals at WCS's five New York-based wildlife parks: the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo. She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.