France made European history in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on Thursday, when it pulverized a three-ton haul of ivory tusks and ornaments. The event, which was meant as a message to illegal wildlife traffickers, was held on the Champs de Mars in front of a crowd of policemen and photographers, says the Guardian.
Most of the tusks, either whole or carved into batons of ivory, weighing 2,304 kg [5,079 pounds], had been seized by customs officers at Roissy and Orly airports either in freight cargo or from passengers. A further 15,357 pieces of ivory, including statues and jewellery, weighing 800 kg [1,764 pounds], were also fed into the grinder. Officials said the powder would be encased in a composite material to make it impossible to retrieve, and used in construction.
"The destruction of illegal ivory has become indispensable in the fight against trafficking of threatened species," said Philippe Martin, the French minister for ecology, durable development and energy. "It's a firm message that we are sending to the dealers who are threatening the survival of the elephant in Africa."
The rest of France's 14 tons of ivory will be destroyed in the coming months, officials say.
Martin also noted that France has increased ivory fines by up to ten times recently. "The message to the poachers and traffickers is clear: the trafficking of ivory has no future; with this action we are telling them ivory has no value."
The World Wildlife Fund praised the move in a press release, and called on other countries to follow in France's footsteps:
"By destroying its ivory stockpile, France has joined a growing number of nations, including the US and China, that are taking a public stand against illegal ivory trafficking. We call on other countries to join this important trend of taking a strong public stance against the illegal wildlife trade."
ACTION GUIDE: Ivory
The ivory trade is the biggest driver of elephant poaching in the world, despite a global CITES ban on the sale of ivory since 1990. In 2012 alone, 22,000 African elephants were killed, often to supply a major consumer demand in Asia, especially in China. To avoid products that could help fuel the ivory trade, check out this guide by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the Unites States, there is also concern that "vintage" ivory (not from recent poaching) contributes to the ivory demand, and therefore poaching (see The Nature Conservancy for information about how most antique "legal" ivory is in fact not). To beome active in this issue, you can become in campaigns by World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Conservation Caucus Foundation.)