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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Fighting ivory trade the China way

CHINA, which has been described by conservationists as the world’s leading hub for the illegal ivory trade, took everyone by surprise recently by destroying some six tonnes of confiscated ivory from its stockpile.

The landmark destruction of the confiscated ivory and products such as carvings and ornaments, which were said to be amassed over the years, is indeed a good piece of news for the world and China deserve all-round applause. The fact that China chose to destroy the ivory on the first week of the New Year is a symbolic gesture of the Chinese leadership that they are in sync with the views and feelings of conservationists and animal-lovers on the subject.

The act of destroying the confiscated ivory in public for the first time by the Chinese authorities indicates that China is not prepared to tolerate the illegal trade in elephant ivory any more. The destruction of the ivory in Guangdong province sends a very powerful message to the Chinese people and the world that China is concerned with animal welfare and it is prepared to work with the international community in protecting and conserving our endangered wildlife.

Ivory is said to be a prized status symbol in the well-to-do Chinese community and it is used in traditional crafts and carvings. China and Thailand have been singled out as the two countries where the demand for ivory has been fuelling poaching activities in Africa according to the Convention on Interna­tional Trade in Endangered Species.

It was recently reported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) that an estimated 35,000 or more elephants are slaughtered annually in a barbaric manner by poachers for their ivory.

Ivory, which has been referred as “white gold”, is said to fetch between RM7,000 and RM8,000 per kg in the black market.

Ivory trafficking apparently is taking a toll on the elephant population around the world and its related activities are now seen by many countries as a threat to regional security.

The decision of China to step forward, perhaps for the first time in history, to destroy part of its stockpile of confiscated elephant tusks and products is indeed a giant step towards conserving and safeguarding these magnificent animals that roam our jungles.

Back home it is heartening to note that the Malaysian authorities too have been on high alert to these ivory smuggling activities. The several tons of ivory shipments worth millions of ringgit seized by our authorities over the years is still under lock and key.

I urge the authorities to emulate China’s move and destroy all the confiscated ivory in public.

Since no one has been arrested so far and we are not seeing any development on the matter, it is advisable for the authorities to destroy all the illegal ivory in our stockpile.

Destroying the confiscated stockpile of ivory will send a strong message to all parties concerned that Malaysia too does not tolerate ivory trafficking and it’s equally serious in wildlife conservation and protection.

The destruction of our stockpile will put a stop to all the speculation and allegations that some of the confiscated ivory in our stockpile has been “leaking out” secretly and is found on the black market.

The destruction of confiscated ivory in countries along the illegal ivory trafficking trade chain will send a powerful message to consumers all over the world that buying is unethical and wrong.

When the Chinese, who are well-known in the world to treasure ivory and its products, can come forward to destroy their stockpile to show their concern and support for wildlife conservation and protection, I am sure we can do the same or better.

Contributed by S. PARAM Ipoh Malaysia