China has destroyed several tons of confiscated ivory tusks and carvings, just months after the US crushed six tons of seized ivory.
Officials in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, pulverised 6.1 tons of confiscated tusks and carvings in an event on Monday attended by representatives from 10 countries including the UK, and elephant states including Kenya, Gabon, and Tanzania.
Elephant poaching has reached record levels in recent years, at a peak of 25,000 killings in 2011, followed by 22,000 deaths in 2012. China is the world’s biggest market for ivory, where it is often sold as carved into works of art and considered a status symbol.
Conservationists welcomed the move. Patrick Bergin, chief executive of the African Wildlife Foundation, said: “This is a courageous and critical first step by China to elevate the important issue of wildlife trafficking and elephant poaching among its citizens and around the world. The Chinese government is to be commended for taking the issue seriously.”
Tom Milliken, ivory trade expert at wildlife trade monitors Traffic, said: “The destruction of seized ivory makes an important public statement that, in conjunction with other government-led efforts to reduce demand, has the potential to have a significant impact on the illegal market for ivory.”
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, which attended the event, said it was “delighted”, while the Chinese former basketball player and wildlife campaigner Yao Ming called it “a significant step in raising public awareness,” and that he hoped it would “lead to similar events throughout China.”
However, some environmentalists say that destroying seized ivory could worsen elephant poaching, by making it more scarce and pushing the price up.
Alastair Morgan, the UK consul general at the China crush, said Britain supported a global ban on ivory trade and consumption. The international ivory trade has been banned since 1989, though domestic trade is allowed in the US and China.
The US crush in November last year was partly in response to the illegal wildlife trade being elevated into a national security concern as some of the funding proceeds have been going to terrorist groups, and is part of a wider crackdown on the trade by the Obama administration.
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