Conservationists are urging European countries to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and several Asian countries that have destroyed massive stockpiles of ivory recently, in a show of solidarity against elephant poaching.
The first European country to respond was France, which reportedly holds a reserve of 17 tons of ivory seized over the past 25 years. The country's ecology ministry announced that three tons will be crushed and then incinerated near the Eiffel Tower on Thursday, thanks to pressure from Paris-based environmental group Robin des Bois (translation: Robin Hood). The first crush is meant to be a ceremonial symbol; the rest will be destroyed at a later date.
"We are very satisfied that the French state has changed its doctrine; moving away from the stockpiling of seized ivory," Robin des Bois president Jacky Bonnemains told Reuters. "We hope that this new approach of systematically destroying seized ivory will be extended to rhino horn and other illegal animal products."
The county follows in the wake of several others -- China and the U.S. each crushed a six-ton pile in the past few months, while the Philippines destroyed five tons last June. Last month, Hong Kong announced a plan to incinerate 28 tons over the next two years.
Despite an international ban on ivory entered in 1990, limited legal sales have still been allowed. Conservationists say that this only fuels the black market trade in ivory products, for which 22,000 African elephants were killed illegally in 2012.
Bonnemains said that Thursday's ivory crush in Paris should set the standard for the rest of the continent: "We call upon the rest of the European Union to do the same."
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.)