As a demonstration to its commitment to elephant conservation Gabon will today burn over 4 tons of ivory. The destruction of the ivory will ensure that it does not find its way into the illegal wildlife trade.
The ivory burning will see the destruction of Gabon’s entire stockpile of ivory seized from poachers and smugglers. The stockpile has been independently verified by the WWF and TRAFFIC.
By burning its stockpile the Gabonese government will ensure that the recent thefts of ivory from other countries government stocks will not be repeated there. [pullquote]If not managed properly, ivory stockpiles in the hands of government suddenly ‘get legs’ and move into illegal trade.[/pullquote]
Last week over 3 tons of ivory was stolen from government stocks in Zambia and in February 1.1 tonnes were stolen from Mozambique stockpiles.
When the ivory is set alight later Gabon will be the first country in central Africa to destroy it’s stocks.
Gabon’s President Ali Bongo will ignite the ivory pyre later today in Cite de Democratie. “Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws, to ensure this policy is enforced,” said President Ali Bongo.
“WWF supports Gabon’s decision and sees the move as an indication of the country’s commitment to curbing elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade,” said Stefanie Conrad, WWF Central Africa Regional Programme Office Representative. “Ivory of illegal or unknown origin cannot be sold legally internationally for commercial purposes. Gabon has acted commendably in deciding to put such ivory beyond use,” she said.
The audited stocks that makes up the bonfire include 1,293 piece of rough ivory mainly composed of tusks and 17,730 pieces of worked ivory. The total weight of the ivory to be burned is 4,825 kilograms and equates to 850 dead elephants.
Globally last year was the worst year for poaching since the ban in ivory trade was introduced. According to a recent UN report central African nations are currently bearing the brunt of the increased poaching.
“This is an international problem and Gabon is coming under siege by criminal gangs of hunters and crime syndicates that smuggle ivory to Asia. Unless there is a strong international reaction to stop wildlife crime, and ivory smuggling in particular, the forests of Gabon will no longer vibrate with the rumble of the forest elephant,” said Professor Lee White, Executive Secretary of Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (Gabon’s National Parks Agency).
The two top destinations for the poached ivory is either China or Thailand. With the booming economies of South East Asia the price of ivory has more than doubled between 2004 and 2010. With the surge in prices there will be the risk that seized ivory could make its way onto the international markets. By burning its stockpiles Gabon is removing the temptation.
“If not managed properly, ivory stockpiles in the hands of government suddenly ‘get legs’ and move into illegal trade. Zambia lost 3 tonnes of ivory from the government’s strong room just last week and Mozambique lost 1.1 tonnes in February,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory trade expert. “Gabon’s actions effectively keep the ivory out of the way of temptation.”
WWF: Gabon set to burn…
TRAFFIC: Gabon set to burn…