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
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT