For the first time, China crushes 6 metric tonnes of ivory in public

Mon Jan 6, 2014 1:21pm EST
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By Venus Wu and Clare Baldwin

DONGGUAN/HONG KONG (Reuters) - China crushed 6.2 metric tonnes (6.83 tons) of confiscated ivory on Monday in the first such public destruction of any part of its stockpile, after the country's fitful enforcement efforts led experts to question its commitment to stamping out smuggling.

Animal rights groups say China's growing appetite for the contraband material has fuelled a surge in poaching in Africa.

Monday's event was attended by representatives of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), non-government groups and the media.

"China is sending a very powerful message both domestically, to the Chinese people, and internationally, that it is not prepared to tolerate the illegal trade in elephant ivory," said CITES Secretary General John Scanlon.

The function, held on the outskirts of a southern industrial city, featured elephant tusks placed in the shape of a flower on an outdoor stage, surrounded by ivory statues of the Buddha.

But China, ranked as the world's biggest end-market for poached ivory by conservation body the World Wildlife Fund, still has work to do, some anti-smuggling officials said.

"There is an increasing trend of ivory being smuggled to China," said Yang Liuying, an anti-smuggling researcher for the Chinese customs department.

"We have to strengthen our efforts in this area. I can say that there is a 10 percent increase every year."   Continued...

Workers destroy confiscated ivory and ivory sculptures in Dongguan, Guangdong province January 6, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee