- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Criminals keep finding different ways to break the laws, and the District of Columbia’s Crime and Punishment Museum continues to find ways to educate the public about it. Accordingly, the museum in Northwest Washington is offering two exhibits that draw attention to a range of issues including the nation’s hate crimes and the continued battle against wildlife poachers abroad.

Taking visitors on an “emotional journey,” the “Attack on America: The Fight Against Terrorism & Hate Crimes” exhibit highlights the history of domestic terrorism, including the Unabomber’s 20 years of terrorizing, the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 and many more.

“Hate crimes and domestic terrorism are things that all of us see in the news daily, and we all feel the impact — whether we have been a victim, know a victim or have been impacted through legislation,” said Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer of the museum. “Being able to learn more about this type of crime, which happens here on our own soil, is powerful for everyone.”

“Ivory, Tortoise Shell & Fur: The Ugly Truth of Wildlife Trafficking” is open until February. The exhibit calls on viewers to recognize the injustices animals face when they are killed inhumanely for their fur or tusks.

Cecil, the much-revered and recently slain lion of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, is a recent case of the illegal poaching for which the exhibit draws attention and demands justice.

Crimes similar to Cecil’s tragic death are more common than one might think. Tigers are often trapped and starved to death so as to not sully the fur — all for the sake of having a luxurious tiger skin rug.

A tiger rug, ivory jewelry, photos of poached animals and more are on display within the exhibit.

“Illegal wildlife trafficking is an issue that we should all be concerned with,” Ms. Vaccarello said. “The manner in which these poached animals are killed is horrific. If we educate the public on this cruelty, maybe consumers will stop purchasing goods like ivory earrings or tortoiseshell necklaces.”

The museum also offers a solution to stopping the wildlife traffickers. Buying the “Save Vanishing Species” U.S. postal stamp raises money for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conservation fund.

“Many people are unaware of how critical the situation has become, yet the statistics are alarming,” Ms. Vaccarello said.

In the past century, 97 percent of the world’s tigers have been lost. In the past 13 years alone, 76 percent of elephants also were lost, Ms. Vaccarello said, to meet black market demand for luxury, illegal items such as ivory jewelry.

“We are excited to be bringing this information to the masses,” Ms. Vaccarello said. “This is truly a big step in the right direction when it comes to curbing the illegal wildlife trafficking industry. The more the public learns about it, the more empowered they will be to help end it.”


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