Independent Voices, Indy Voices

China crushes six tonnes of ivory in crackdown on illegal trade

The illegal stockpile was destroyed in a landmark move but critics say it is just a fraction of the total

Share
Related Topics

In an unprecedented move to show support against the global ivory trade, China crushed 6.1 tonnes of illegally stockpiled ivory in Dongguan city, near Guangzhou, on Monday.

Every day, 100 African elephants are killed illegally for their ivory. China is the final destination for most of this contraband ivory and a single tusk can fetch more than £10,000 on the Chinese black market. Worth around £6bn annually, the trade funds terrorist organisations such as al-Shabaab, which recently attacked the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi.

In China, where the government plays a crucial role in influencing consumer demand, crushing this large stockpile sends a clear signal that  it is clamping down on the illegal ivory trade.

Jianguo He, who has worked against the ivory trade for 12 years with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw), said witnessing the event was bittersweet: “When you see six tonnes of ivory, you can’t help but think ‘how many elephants was that?’

“What did those elephants die for? Ivory is not a necessity, it is simply a luxury item that people don’t need. Every ivory product means an elephant was killed. That means a loss of life and a loss of biodiversity. This is not art any more. People are exploiting nature for all it can give.

“At the same time, it is encouraging to see that the Chinese government is taking concrete action. The destruction indicates cross-departmental co-operation and a willingness to address the issue of ivory demand.”

Mr Jianguo explained that crushing ivory was not only a symbolic action, but also had practical benefits: “It means it will never return to the market and create new demand. In 2006, China applied for a one-off sale of ivory from legal African stockpiles.

“This created a new demand from China’s new elite and since then elephant deaths in Africa have increased dramatically,” he said.

“Maintaining stockpiles is also very expensive and there is also the risk of theft from the stockpiles which fuels more  demand for ivory.”

The event follows a front-page story in the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly last year which highlighted China’s role in the ivory trade and reached over one million online views within a week.

A statement released by the Chinese government said: “Wildlife trafficking has become a serious problem and the illegal trade of ivory and wildlife products is increasing.”

The initiative, launched by the China Wildlife Conservation Association, was held “for the purpose of raising public awareness, and demonstrating the Chinese government’s resolve to combat wildlife trafficking”.

John Scanlon, of Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), oversaw the ceremony and said: “We hope that the underlying messages being conveyed through today’s public crush of ivory are heard loud and clear by anyone who is involved in this highly destructive illicit activity.”

He said the government’s message was reinforced by “the increased numbers of seizures, prosecutions and convictions in China – including the imposition of high monetary fines and custodial sentences on those trading in elephant ivory”.

The ivory crush comes after the United States destroyed six tonnes of stockpiled ivory in November last year. However, unlike the US, which destroyed its entire stockpile, 6.1 tonnes only represents a small fraction of China’s seized ivory. Some commentators remain unconvinced about China’s sincerity to follow through and combat the ivory trade after this event.

Mary Rice, from the Environmental Investigation Agency, pointed out: “Disposing of contraband ivory carries little meaning while the authorities are actively promoting a legal market which they claim is regulated and controlled through a registration and ID card system that clearly is not working.

“Mixed messages to consumers and confusing and complicated rules and regulations for enforcement personnel only serve to provide laundering mechanisms for illegal ivory to enter the market.”

Andrea Crosta, of the Elephant Action League, said: “We think that this ceremony is just a public relations exercise to ease the pressure from the international community.”

The Independent’s Christmas appeal this year supports Space for Giants, an organisation which puts boots on the ground in Kenya to stop poachers from killing the elephants.

To read more about our elephant appeal, click here

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss