At least the writer sees it as symbolic - for that is all it is. All it will do is assuage the tender sensibilities of a few armchair environmentalists, while it drives the price of ivory through the roof - it sends the wrong message to the wrong people. Some symbol.
What should have been done was to sell the ivory at a price significantly below the black market price, flooding the market in the US (Only about 5% of the world ivory market) for years to come. Then they should have donated the proceeds to African governments to help them set up anti-poaching and education programs. I would venture a guess that a significant proportion of the elephants are killed by farmers trying to protect the crops they unwittingly planted along traditional elephant migration routes. As human populations in Africa increase, so will this part of the problem. We have the luxury to sit in our living rooms and be enraged that animals on the other side of the world are needlessly dying; the African farmer is trying
to protect the food he and his family will be eating during the dry season.
Don't get me wrong - I fully support the CITES treaty, which bans/controls international trade in protected and endangered species. But the use of ivory already here should be continued. It is much easier and effective to regulate a market than has been in place since our nation came into being. Look at the prohibition fiasco as a historical example, or the present discussion on gun control for examples. Outright banning of ivory would create an enforcement nightmare.
As a scrimshander, I often hear the comment that the sale of ivory in any form (including fossil mammoth and walrus, ivory from wild boar, warthog, elk and other non-threatened species, and repurposed antique ivory like piano keys and billiard balls) promotes the slaughter of elephants. Using the same chain of logic, we should not cut Christmas trees or build our homes of wood because that promotes the destruction of rainforests. It's silly and uninformed. In 5 minutes, I can show anyone how to identify ivory from different sources.
Ivory as a medium for either art or useful items has a long history. Many of the Venus figurines carved 20-40K years ago, were carved in mammoth ivory. The Inuit and other groups in the far north have used walrus and cetacean ivory for thousands of years for everything from harpoon points to sled runners. And the only art form of American origin - scrimshaw - traditionally uses different kinds of ivory, although I also use bone and antler. Ivory of different types is used in musical instruments: piano keys, nuts and tuning pegs in stringed instruments (where it is the best material for the job). Eschewing the use/sale of all ivory ignores its historical significance, signs the death warrant for the only truly American art form, and deprives artisans of a material ideally suited for an intended purpose.