VIDEO: In the clear light of day, Philippine authorities crush their illegal elephant ivory

The video above shows clips of Philippine authorities destroying their illegal ivory stockpiles. Footage c. IFAW/Alex Hofford

Just last week, the Philippines government sent a powerful message to elephant poachers. In a bold and decisive move, they destroyed US$10-million of confiscated ivory making them the first Asian nation to speak out so strongly against the illegal ivory trade. They had originally planned to crush the tusks by steamroller, but when that didn’t work they resorted to an excavator to do the job.

The Philippines has an unwanted reputation as a pivotal trade and transit route for ivory. Last year, a report that looked at ivory used for religious objects highlighted their role as both a conduit and destination for ivory smuggled from Africa. We know that the work cannot stop with confiscation. Investigators need to find out where the ivory originated and where it is going, but reducing the stockpile is a good first step.

Most illegal ivory is sent to Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold.” Limited availability of the legal ivory China purchased from stockpile sales in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal trade and the poaching of elephants to meet escalating market needs.

IFAW estimates 25,000 – 50,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in 2011 and, as numbers are tallied for 2012, it could have been an even worse year for Africa’s elephants.

The bottom line is that as long as markets exist for ivory, elephants will continue to be killed to furnish demand.  However, with China in the picture now, the scale of this demand is growing out of proportion and, based on recent poaching and seizure data, there seemingly isn’t an end. 

We are reaching the tipping point where we could see the decline of populations once thought immune from the impacts of poaching. This is a global crisis and every little effort to address the problem helps in some way. IFAW thus applauds the Philippines in for their actions, which sends a strong message to the world, notably China, to follow suit.

--JB

For more information on our efforts to end the trade in ivory, visit our campaign page.

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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