Crushing 6 tons of confiscated ivory, China answers a global call to protect elephants

In the pictures above, taken by IFAW staff, Chinese customs officials prepare and begin crushing illegal stockpiles of confiscated ivory in Guangzhou, China.

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A couple of months ago following the U.S. government’s ivory crush in Denver, I called on other countries to follow suit and destroy their stockpiles of ivory.

Today in Guangzhou, the Chinese government answered that call and pulverized more than six tons of its confiscated elephant ivory to bring attention to people worldwide the horrific extent of illegal wildlife trade.

The act of a so-called “ivory crush” is very symbolic.

Also on IFAW.org: Share your thoughts about saving animals in 2014

The momentum of such destructions from nations along the trade chain—from elephant poaching countries to ivory demand countries—brings attention to the sheer volume of tusks and ivory products that were smuggled into market countries, all of which came from the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants.

Before the U.S. ivory crush, the last couple of years had seen the Philippines, Kenya and Gabon burn and/or crush their stockpiles, and although the call came out from Denver, it was uncertain who would be next to stand up for the protection of elephants. And so, it is monumental that China has decided to crush some of its ivory, as the country is considered to be the biggest consumer of so-called “white gold.”

I am incredibly proud of the members of our IFAW China team who were able to represent our animal welfare mission and collective values at this government-sponsored event, along with representatives from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), World Customs Organization, and the United States Embassy in China.

Standing together, we are making a statement to poachers, traffickers and  consumers everywhere that the slaughter of elephants  is cruel and unethical, and the consumption of their ivory is immoral and wrong.

A crush has some very direct effects, too.

Destroying confiscated ivory prevents it from re-entering the market and further discourages the poaching of elephants. Six tons of ivory only represents a fraction of the amount of confiscated ivory, but a group of countries continuing to  destroy ivory publicly shows a collective stand against wildlife crime and for preserving the majestic elephants in the wild.

This event precedes a handful of other important measures across the world addressing wildlife crime in the immediate future. The European Parliament will vote this month on a resolution for an EU wildlife trafficking action plan. In February, France will destroy three tons of ivory, and a week later London will host a forum with 50 countries affected by illegal wildlife trade.

For decades, IFAW has campaigned against the poaching of elephants to supply the ivory trade. The slaughter of elephants for their ivory has reached epidemic proportions, with estimates of more than 35,000 elephants killed across Africa just last year alone.

With populations declining by over eleven percent annually because of poaching, elephant populations are vulnerable to collapse, according to a recent UN report. Dr. Jane Goodall had also rung the alarm for the elephants’ future in a guest post on IFAW.org during the U.S. Crush.

Ivory trafficking doesn’t just kill elephants; it affects people, sometimes even entire communities.

Along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales, wildlife crime (of which ivory trafficking is a major segment) ranks among the most serious, dangerous, and damaging of international crimes, worth an estimated US$19 billion per year as noted in IFAW’s recently updated report, “Criminal Nature – The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade.”

IFAW is steadfast to smashing every link in the ivory chain, through participation in crushes, training of anti-poaching rangers, a co-operation with INTERPOL, and being a founding partner in the Clinton Global Initiative’s commitment “Partnership to Save African Elephants.”

Clearly, we can work together to end this scourge. I look forward to even more nations organizing and carrying out their own destruction of wildlife booties in 2014 and beyond.

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Read the IFAW report, “Criminal Nature – The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade.”

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia