France became the latest country to destroy its stockpile of confiscated ivory, with three tons (2.7 tonnes) of it turned to dust during a ceremony in Paris today (Feb. 6). The ivory crush follows similar moves by the United States, the Philippines, China and Gabon as part of an effort to discourage the illegal ivory trade.
More than 15,000 ivory pieces were pulverized — most of them trinkets seized at airports between 1987 and 2007 from tourists who are likely unaware that their souvenirs contribute to a grisly elephant poaching industry. Though the international ivory trade was banned in 1989, a black market still thrives. Elephant populations have been in decline across much of Africa, with some 96 killed each day on average, mostly for their ivory, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"France's move today sends a strong message to a European audience — particularly French tourists and businessmen — that buying ivory as souvenirs directly contributes to the elephant crisis we face today," Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory trade expert, said in a statement. "Beyond influencing local consumers, however, the jury is still out on what effect destruction events like this have on the dynamics of illegal ivory trade."