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Mass ivory burning shows the way ahead

EIA calls for the destruction of all black market ivory

KENYA: As several tonnes of contraband ivory went up in smoke, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) called for all other illegal stockpiles to follow it.

Today’s symbolic pyre at the Kenya Wildlife Service Field Training School in Manyani comprised 335 tusks and 41,553 hankos (signature stamps, similar to rubber stamps but carved from ivory), part of a 6.5 tonne haul of illegal ivory seized by Singapore Customs in June 2002. It is estimated that at least 600 elephants died to provide so much ivory.

The black market consignment had been exported from Lilongwe, Malawi, and was brought to Kenya by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force in March 2004 for investigative purposes. DNA profiling to determine its probable origins indicate it came largely from savannah elephant populations, and mostly from Zambia.

EIA is one of only a handful of NGOs invited to attend the burning; EIA’s extensive undercover probe into the ivory trade in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East in the late 1980s and its resulting report A System of Extinction: The African Elephant Disaster played a pivotal role in securing the 1989 worldwide ban of the international trade in ivory.

The organisation has continued to oppose any trade in ivory and believes recent one-off sales of stockpiled ivory permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have actually contributed to the ongoing slaughter of elephants instead of removing the pressure through provision of a ‘legitimate’ supply.

EIA executive director Mary Rice said: “We hope the burning of this ivory will serve as a beacon to other nations holding ivory stockpiles and encourage them to follow this example and destroy the huge amounts of poached ivory they have seized.

“With avaricious consumer markets for ivory such as that in China, where up to 90 per cent of the ivory on the market place is of illegal origin, there is no such thing as a safe or harmless legal trade in ivory; this serves only to confuse consumers, stimulate fresh demand and allow the easy laundering of black market ivory.

“The decision to destroy this particular seizure is the only sane and responsible way forward – stockpiled ivory can only ever spur corruption and ultimately further feed consumer demand, and the fire is the right place for it.”

Interviews are available on request. Please contact EIA Executive Director Mary Rice at
maryrice@eia-international.org
or telephone +254 (0) 736830117.

EDITORS’ NOTES

1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.

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