Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

China crushes tons of illegal ivory

By Sophie Brown and Susan Wang, for CNN
updated 9:26 AM EST, Mon January 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China crushed 6.15 tons from its stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory
  • China accounts for 70% of the world's ivory market
  • The event comes two months after the U.S. destroyed its own stockpile
  • Animal welfare groups welcomed the move as a first step to combat wildlife trafficking

(CNN) -- China is cracking down on the illegal ivory trade.

Several tons of confiscated elephant tusks and carvings were crushed in a ceremony in the city of Guangzhou on Monday -- just two months after the United States destroyed its own ivory stockpile.

Conservationists have welcomed the move as a monumental shift in the government's approach to the ivory trade, and a crucial first step for China -- the world's largest ivory market -- to tackle illicit wildlife trafficking.

Some 6.15 tons of ivory were destroyed on Monday -- equivalent to one-sixth of the illegal ivory confiscated worldwide in 2012 -- according to May Mei, the Chinese chief representative of wildlife protection group, WildAid, who attended the ceremony.

Chasing elephant poachers in Congo
Is elephant ivory funding terrorism?

It's the first time China, which accounts for around 70% of global demand for ivory, has destroyed any of its stockpile.

The fact that China is taking a public stance against the practice is an encouraging sign, says Jeff He, special assistant to the Asia Regional Director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

"With the government taking such a symbolic action, it sends out a very strong message to the potential consumers that the government won't allow any illegal trade in ivory," he said.

Ivory is known as "white gold" in China and tusks with intricate carvings can fetch almost $3,000 per kilogram on the black market. One of the biggest challenges remains dampening demand among consumers, say animal welfare campaigners.

According to a 2013 WildAid report, many Chinese residents have little awareness of how ivory sales contribute to the poaching that has caused the world's elephant population to dwindle in recent years.

"This event in itself is not going to solve these issues," said Joe Waltson, Asia Program Director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, "but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any value."

"It needs to be welcomed, if only to embolden those within the Chinese government who are pushing for more substantive action on this issue," Waltson said.

"It could really have an impact on the conservation of African and Asian elephants."

A report released by the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species last year found that the global illegal ivory trade has tripled in the last decade, in spite of 1989-ban on the international trade of the product.

According to the IFAW's Jeff He, a rise in demand from Asia, and especially China, in recent years has fueled the black market and put increasing pressure on African elephants in the wild.

The elephant population in Africa has now shrunk to around half a million, from 1.2 million in 1980. Nearly one hundred African elephants are killed for their tusks every day, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

To help wipe out the demand for ivory, conservation groups have called on governments to destroy confiscated ivory stockpiles, which often require substantial resources to keep secure.

On November 15, the U.S. destroyed its entire 6-ton stockpile of ivory "to send a clear message that the United States will not tolerate ivory trafficking and the toll it is taking on elephant populations, particularly in Africa." Similar events have taken place in the Philippines, Gabon, and Kenya in the last three years.

READ: Elephant poachers become the prey

READ: Hong Kong's seized ivory stockpile an elephant-sized headache

READ: U.S. destroys tons of elephant ivory; offers $1 million bounty on traffickers

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:57 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT