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Endangered Species: China takes a stand against illegal ivory trade

Digital writers

Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 2:57 PM -

China is the world's largest market for ivory, but the Chinese government is making a bold statement against the illegal ivory trade.

In total 6 thousand kilos of seized ivory worth millions of dollars were destroyed Monday for the world to see. It's part of a national campaign to crush the illegal ivory trade and save elephants in the process.

One by one, more than 100 ivory tusks were fed into a grinder, each believed to be worth more than $41,000 on the Chinese black market.

Hundreds of figurines carved out of elephant tusks were also crushed to powder.

"This is the first occasion in which China has chosen to crush its seized ivory," says John Scanlon, Secretary  General for the  Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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"It's an occasion when China can send, and 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."

The Wildaid foundation, a NGO working to reduce demand for wildlife products, says as the Chinese people become more affluent heir appetite for endangered wildlife products like ivory grows. 

This demand is feeding a rise in illegal ivory smuggling .

"We do not deny the fact that in recent years, there is an increasing trend of ivory being smuggled to China," saya Yang Liuying, a researcher for the Chinese Customs Anti-smuggling Team.

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

Wildaid has teamed up with the Chinese government and celebrities to create public service announcements to raise awareness. Their research shows many Chinese are unaware of the consequences of buying illegal ivory products, which devastates not only elephants, but humans caught in ivory trade fueled conflicts as well.  

China says the ivory powder will be made into a statue and displayed in a museum, to serve as a warning against ivory smuggling -- and hopefully help crush the country's fascination with ivory.

Elephants are critically endangered animals, largely due to habitat destruction and poaching.

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Experts believe as many as 30,000 elephants are poached each year for their ivory.

In the early 1900s, a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants were found in 37 countries south of the Sahara Desert, as well as in India, Sri Lanka, China and southeast Asia.

Today, there between 450,000 and 700,000 African elephants and approximately 40,000 wild Asian elephants in existence.


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