Today (July 6) in Maputo, the Government of Mozambique destroyed one tonne of contraband ivory and 53 rhino horns seized from the international illegal trade.
The event is the latest in a growing number of high-profile destructions of illegal wildlife products around the world, calculated to send an unequivocal message to all involved in the illegal trade – from the poachers on the ground through the international criminal cartels and corrupt officials who facilitate the trade to the consumers – that there is no legitimate place for ivory and rhino horn but on the unique animals from which it is derived at such terrible cost.
Since playing a key role in achieving the 1989 international ban on ivory trade and campaigning hard against the two subsequent stockpile auctions approved by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which so seriously undermined it, EIA has long advocated putting seized wildlife products beyond use.
“We welcome this bold statement by Mozambique as a demonstration of its resolve to oppose the illegal wildlife trade and to put illegal wildlife products beyond commercial use,” said EIA Executive Director Mary Rice.
“Critics of public destruction may claim, inaccurately, that such events serve no purpose but to make ivory even rarer and more valuable, but there’s no denying that they must carry some significant weight for China itself to have begun publicly destroying illegal ivory stocks.
“Indeed, at the last such event in May, Zhao Shucong, Director of China’s State Forestry Administration, made reference to the possibility that the ivory trade may eventually be halted, a step we would fully support, but it’s too early for congratulations yet.
“The reality is that the public destruction of illegal wildlife products works; it is important to keep in mind that seized ivory is already out of circulation and should under no circumstances be officially allowed back onto the market – not forgetting that allowing it back on the market would only further stimulate demand.”
However, there are more reasons to support the destruction of stockpiles than just for the propaganda value of the act.
One is the high cost of storing and securing these potentially very lucrative and tempting stockpiles and another is the very real danger of theft, with previously seized contraband inciting corruption and so finding its way back onto the black market.
Rice added: “To put it bluntly, trade has utterly failed as a conservation tactic – legal trade has failed to curb illegal trade, instead parallel legal trade offers plenty of room for international crime and corruption to flourish.
“Elephants no longer have the time – or, tragically, the numbers – to sit by waiting for long discussions and verbal commitment to materialise in action. We must do everything in our power now to ensure that ivory remains on elephants in the wild, and this includes destroying redundant stocks of tusks and ivory products being stored across the world.”
EIA calls on all countries with seized illegal wildlife products to demonstrate genuine commitment by shutting down all ivory trade, conducting DNA analysis of seized goods and continuing to destroy stockpiles as best practice.