China sent a strong message to illegal ivory traders by destroying 6 tons of illegal ivory from its stockpile on Monday. This was done in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province where the illegal trade is rampant.
This is unprecedented move is expected go a long way in vindicating China from criticism of tolerating poaching. China is arguably the biggest marketplace for ivory.
Authorities publicly displayed a pile of carvings, ornaments and tusks before destroying them with two industrial crushing machines. Longer tusks were chopped into smaller pieces by workers using circular saws before they could be grounded up. Custom officials and forestry officers played a key role in organizing what was described as the country’s biggest ivory destruction ever.
Chinese demand for ivory has been triggered by the country’s growing middle class who now have more disposable income and buy ivory carvings as a status symbol. Ivory has been nicknamed “White gold” because of the high prices it fetches. One kilogram of ivory can cost as much as $2,000.
The 6 tons of ivory destroyed represents just a fraction of the illegal ivory in China, according to the authorities. However, they did not disclose how much ivory is still left on the Chinese black market. The destroyed ivory came from shops and carving factories in China as well as from intercepted shipments from Africa.
China now joins a host of other countries who are committed to cracking down on the illegal traded of ivory. Some of these countries include the Philippines which destroyed at least 5 tons of ivory in June, the United States which destroyed 6 tons in November and Gabon which destroyed almost 5 tons in 2012.
The U.S. sent officials to witness the ivory destruction exercise on Monday and praised China’s move saying it "will send a powerful message to wildlife poachers and traffickers and to the consumers of illegal wildlife products."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare also commended China for the move saying that it was a powerful symbolic act that shows China is concerned about wildlife threats. IFAW CEO Azzedine Downs said that the destruction was a testament to the fact that ivory buying is illegal and unethical everywhere. It is estimated that more than 35,000 elephants were killed by poachers last year.
Image via YouTube