Belgium’s elephant ivory crush will create ripples throughout Europe

IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes speaking at the Belgium ivory crush.Worldwide momentum is building, with the Belgian government the latest to heed our call to destroy stockpiles of confiscated illegal ivory. Our collective resonating gestures will make the world understand that the very survival of elephants depends on ending the ivory trade.

Belgium joins the ranks of key nations whose stockpile crushes have helped to strategically position the ivory trade as a major international security issue. Last fall, I stood up to speak on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the US Fish and Wildlife’s historic demolition of its entire cache of ivory in Denver, Colorado. Months later, IFAW representatives were present as the Chinese government destroyed a six ton stockpile of ivory.

SEE ALSO: As they prepare for 1.5 tonne ivory crush this week, Belgian customs should be saluted

The United States is a significant player when it comes to international wildlife crime policy and enforcement and the pulverizing of its cache was a long-anticipated event. What’s more, it set in motion a snowball effect: Countries like China and France followed within months, and IFAW itself organised an ivory crush in London during Prime Minister Cameron and the Royal Family’s wildlife summit. Hong Kong SAR of China announced it will carry out a series of burns to destroy its enormous supply.

China’s ivory crush was a real milestone; because it is widely known as the planet’s most populous country and because of its swelling middle class, China is a huge consumer of wildlife products, especially ivory. Hong Kong’s crush will be because it is a major transit nation. Asian and African nations like the Philippines, Kenya and Gabon, all of which burned and/or crushed their stockpiles years ago, are source and transit countries themselves.



This small European country is crushing 1.5 tonnes of ivory, representing a portion of the total seized by customs over the past 25 years. After 1989, when the import of African ivory into the European Union was forbidden, a couple of larger seizures took place. But since then, there have been only small quantities of ivory confiscated from individuals’ luggage at airports with intermittent seizures of larger quantities smuggled by traffickers. These seizures have taken place during standard checks by custom authorities in Zaventem, Zeebrugge, Antwerp, Bierset and Charleroi.

So why is a crush by the Belgian government significant?

Because Brussels is a seat of the European Union, this Belgian crush will make ripples throughout Europe. Ambassadors from several European and African countries will join me at the event to make a statement on the very day before the EU will discuss new measures to combat illegal wildlife trade. The fact that a crush takes place in the backyard of this important political and economic body is certainly not lost on us.



We have collaborated with Belgian Vice Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx and the Federal Public Service department of Public Health, Food Chain Protection and Environment to put on this event. The Belgian government understands that this gesture is an important one, no matter what the size of their stockpile is.

We concur.

This event will keep the momentum going, and IFAW calls on other nations with stockpiles—regardless of the nation or its stockpile—who haven’t already taken this stand to save elephants to do the same.


For more information about IFAW efforts to stop wildlife trafficking, visit our campaign page.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy