Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The Philippines has announced it will destroy five tons of seized ivory, a major symbolic step for a nation known for playing a major role in the illegal ivory trade.
“The destruction of the items would hopefully bring the Philippines’ message across the globe that the country is serious and will not tolerate illegal wildlife trade, and denounces the continuous killing of elephants for illicit ivory trade,” Mundita Lim, director of the“¯country´s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau“¯(PAWB), told National Geographic.
PAWB, the country’s leading wildlife agency, said it plans to destroy all the ivory it is currently holding with the exception of 106 pieces that are to be repatriated to Kenya and a few pieces for training, law enforcement and educational purposes.
This large-scale ivory destruction is the latest episode in the ongoing Filipino ivory saga. While the Pacific island nation said it plans to destroy its ℠entire´ five tons of ivory holdings, it is somewhat mysteriously less than half of the total ivory seized by the Philippine government in recent years.
Filipino customs agents reportedly seized 7.7 tons of illegal ivory in 2005 and an additional 5.4 tons in 2009. However, a later audit revealed the customs agency was missing almost six tons of the reportedly confiscated ivory. The discrepancy resulted in a lawsuit filed by PAWB against the government´s customs agency.
The customs agency eventually turned over its 2009 seizure to PAWB. The wildlife organization later had its storeroom broken into, resulting in the theft of over 1.7 tons of ivory. The thieves reportedly replaced the stolen tusks with plastic replicas.
The Philippine government is scheduled to destroy the smuggled ivory on Friday using industrial rollers. Other nations have symbolically burned confiscated ivory caches, but local“¯environmental groups said it would send the wrong message and generate too much smoke. According to Filipino officials, the ivory was smuggled from several different African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) passed a global ban on the international trade of ivory in 1989 after Kenya’s President Daniel Arap Moi burned 15 tons of ivory in a symbolic gesture against the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. The recent limited resurgence of African elephant populations has been linked to the ban´s implementation.
During the most recent CITES meeting, the Philippines was lumped in with a so-called “gang of eight” countries that facilitate the illegal ivory trade. These countries range from suppliers — Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda — to facilitators — Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and China. These eight nations were required to“¯submit plans for ending their role in the illegal trade.
The Philippines’ action comes as Chinese demand for ivory is skyrocketing along with the country´s rise to world economic prominence. China currently permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban. The country also has a stockpile of ivory it purchased in 2008 with CITES approval.
As governments around the world debate the legal status of ivory, many of them still hold ivory caches similar to the one that the Philippine government has committed to destroying.