Philippine government workers crushed and burned more than five tonnes of smuggled elephant tusks worth an estimated $10m (£6m) in the biggest known destruction of trafficked ivory outside Africa.

The Manila government said the destruction of the stockpile, gathered from seizures since 2009, demonstrates its commitment to fighting the illegal ivory trade. It also eliminates any opportunity for corrupt officials to resell the ivory, as was the case in 2006 when the largest single shipment of 3.7 tonnes vanished from the inventory, according to an international network that tracks the illegal trade.

"Ivory is known to have disappeared from a number of government-held stockpiles worldwide, so it is vital that proper protocols are established," said Colman O Criodain from the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The US agency for international development and the Freeland Foundation anti-wildlife-trafficking group said they were assisting the Philippines in conducting DNA analysis of elephant tusks so that law enforcement agencies would have information on the origin and transit points of the smuggled ivory. It would also help to dismantle criminal syndicates responsible for poaching in Africa.

The director of the Bangkok-based foundation, Steven Galster, said: "This not only sends a message to wildlife traffickers that the Philippine government is taking firm action against the illegal ivory trade, but also takes a stand against corruption by burning their ivory stockpile so it cannot be stolen then sold into the black market."

The south-east Asian country has long been used as a transit route between the rest of the continent and Africa. Ivory can fetch up to $2,000/kg on the black market and more than $50,000 for a tusk.

The elephant trade information system, which tracks the illegal trade on behalf of the 1989 convention on international trade in endangered species, says the Philippines is among nine countries and territories identified as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade. The others are China, Hong Kong, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Philippines is a transit point but is also known for its carving industry producing religious sculptures and artefacts.

Last year, National Geographic magazine featured an ivory collection allegedly belonging to a Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, who was suspended by the Vatican in 2012 because of a sex abuse case. Philippine police said they would question Garcia over the origin of the ivory icons.

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Comments (5)

Agha Ata
June 22, 2013 12:42 am

First I thought that, If the government had just confiscated the tusks, and sold them and used the money to stop further killing of the poor animals, it would have been a better solution, but then I thought that the sale of such an item would make more people desire for it and then more smuggling will result. This action of destroying the tusks is a vivid example of zero tolerance.

Simba
June 22, 2013 9:03 am

The state sanctioned destruction of such a large cache of ivory actually has the opposite effect on the ivory trade then what the government is trying to accomplish. By reducing the supply of ivory in the market, its price will rise and make the elephants more vulnerable to poaching.

The elephants from which this ivory was taken are already dead... and they died for naught. I am certainly in favour of protecting these majestic animals. There are no quick fixes for this problem.

vg
June 22, 2013 9:38 am

Burning of 5 tons of ivory does not make sense because the elephants have already lost lives. It is disrespect to them and also it put pressure on the demand. It would have been a lot better to sell this authenticated ivory at premium price. The money thus collected ought to have been dedicated to catch poachers, better customs policing at all points and reward to the officials for catching illegal ivory. In addition, do not cover the corrupt officials, find them - it is not hard to find the one in charge of ivory disappearance - give him/her rigorous punishment and make that punishment and person public in bold letters world wide.

gangadin
June 23, 2013 9:25 pm

What a shame. They should have donated that ivory to Pakistan.

sri1
June 23, 2013 11:50 pm

@vg: Agree. Ivory is ivory, not some cocaine made in Afghanistan. Drugs ought to be burned down, but not such natural resources like ivory.

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