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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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China’s Ivory Destruction Goes Forward

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 6, 2014

ivory to crush

Here’s the first photo of the confiscated ivory that the State Forestry Administration destroyed a few hours ago in Guanzhou, China.  It’s interesting to see the almost floral presentation of the ivory beforehand, and also to note that the amount ultimately destroyed was 6.1 tons, just a fraction more than the United States destroyed in November.

Representatives of 10 foreign nations attended, among them three of the countries hardest hit by the continuing slaughter of elephants, Kenya, Gabon, and Tanzania.

There was also a certain quality of floral presentation in the praise for China served up by those engaged in the fight against the ivory trade.

From Patrick Bergin, chief executive of the African Wildlife Foundation: “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.”

From Cristián Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society: “We congratulate China’s government for showing the world that elephant poaching and illegal ivory consumption is unacceptable. We are hopeful that this gesture shows that we can win the war against poaching and that elephants will once again flourish.”

Now the real question is whether China will take the lead to stop the war on elephants, instead of merely following the example of other nations.  As Samper put it:  “If China were to destroy the remainder of its ivory stocks and lead the world by committing not to buying ivory in the future, it would have a transformative, positive impact on the survival of African elephants.”‘

Saving the elephants, instead of eradicating them, could become a lasting status symbol and win China the admiration of the world.  But with 35,000 elephants–almost 10 percent of the remaining wild population–being slaughtered every year, now is the time to take that next step.


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