Philippines to Destroy $6.4M of Ivory

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Five tons of illegal ivory will be pulverized by the Philippines’ government on June 21, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The ivory will be be run over with steam rollers in a ceremony in Quezon City, Philippines, and could become material for a memorial to poached pachyderms.

“This action is meant to send a message that the Philippines is against the illegal trade of ivory and the merciless massacre of elephants,” Theresa Mundita Lim, head of the Philippines Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

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The original plan was to burn a portion of the ivory, but Filipino environmental groups protested. The groups worried that burning the tusks would be a violation of clean air laws and would send a message to the public that open burning was acceptable. Instead the groups hope to make a memorial out of the pulverized pachyderm tusks.

“The eco-burial site can serve as a lasting memorial to our country’s commitment to ending illegal wildlife trade and to poaching that is mercilessly killing the elephants,” the groups wrote to Lim. “It will be fitting to install a marker at the site made out of combined cement and crushed tusks in memory of the murdered elephants.”

The ivory would have brought approximately $6.5 million on the black market, according to National Geographic. This marks the first time officials in an ivory consuming and trafficking nation have decided to destroy confiscated ivory.

However, five tons represents less than half of the illegal ivory intercepted by Filipino customs agents in recent years. Much of the rest of the ivory disappeared from evidence lockers and presumably reentered the black market, wrote investigative reporter Bryan Christy, whose article in National Geographic last year spurred Filipino law enforcement into action against their country’s criminal ivory trade.

Strong demand for luxury goods in China and other nations fuels the illegal trade in ivory. In Africa, poaching provides tremendous revenues to murderous warlords and threatens to wipe out the planet’s largest land animal.

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Unfortunately, alternatives to elephant ivory don’t fit the luxury standards of the elite.

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“Substitutes supposedly do not have the integrity of true ivory,” George Wittemeyer of Colorado State University, told Discovery News. “Part of this has to do the growth pattern of ivory, called Schreger lines, which facilitates carving at any angle. So it seems the uniqueness of the material as a carving substrate, its beauty and its historic significance in terms of a rarity and prestige all contribute to the demand.”

IMAGE: Workers arrange confiscated elephant ivory tusks at the rescue center of the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife center in Quezon city, metro Manila June 14, 2013.

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