It’s a scene that is becoming all too familiar across Africa – and around the world.
Tonnes of confiscated ivory piled high and then torched. Stockpiles around the world are being destroyed in a bid to save the iconic species, already well on the way to extinction by rampant poaching.
The latest pyre of ivory was set ablaze Wednesday in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. At the same time, 10 tonnes of ivory was crushed in Dubai.
Animal welfare groups applauded the governments of the two nations, which join Belgium, Chad, China, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Hong Kong, Kenya, Philippines, Zambia and the United States in destroying ivory stockpiles. The initiative began in 1989, when the Kenyan government set 12 tonnes of ivory on fire as part of an global effort to thwart the elephant ivory trade.
“More than 25 years later, destruction of government ivory stockpiles is still seen as a necessary part of the solution to elephant poaching which has been escalating over the past eight years or so,” Born Free Foundation said in a statement. “Ivory crushes and burns have become not just practical solutions to the risks and costs of keeping ivory, but also important symbolic gestures and rallying calls to boost political support for elephant conservation and send a clear message to wildlife traffickers.”
The gesture in Brazzaville comes as officials meet there this week at the illegal wildlife trade conference.
“I’m hoping for an action plan from this conference,” Dr. Philip Muruthi, the African Wildlife Foundation‘s senior director of Conservation Science, noted on Facebook. “It will be a folly if we just end up with a list of recommendations. These meetings are useful in that they keep awareness up, but they can’t only do that.”
The value of wildlife and environmental crime is pegged at anywhere between $70- and $213-billion (U.S.) a year, according to best estimates of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations and Interpol.
The world’s wildlife needs action, not just words or promises.
Main photo Born Free Foundation/Facebook