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

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

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Separate lives: Boston’s streets illustrate the divide between the town’s communities  

Migrants have far more to offer than hard work and wealth creation, yet too many exist in isolation from the rest of society

Emily Dugan
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 40 million copies  

Go Set a Watchman: Harper Lee’s new novel is more than just a literary event

Joseph Charlton
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'