Ivory Burn Heralds Change

Gabon's burning ivory stockpile, July 2012. Credit: Luc Mathot/Conservation Just

As we reported previously, on 27th June the Gabonese government burnt its ivory stockpile in a show of defiance to the poachers and traffickers who would profit from the death of elephants. 

As part of the ivory audit prior to the burn, Luc Mathot, President of Conservation Justice, followed officials who verified the ivory stocks all over the country and monitored the transport of the ivory to the location of the burning ceremony. After the burning took place, Mr Mathot said, “Selling the ivory to another country was not a suitable alternative as it renders the differentiation between “legal” and illegal ivory virtually impossible. That’s why the only solution was to burn the ivory”.

Altogether, 1,215 tusks and more than 400kg of sculpted ivory pieces were burnt – a huge quantity which represents just a small proportion of ivory which has moved illegally through Africa over the past 20 years. However, the winds are changing: the Gabonese Forestry Law is being amended and penalties increased. It is hoped that other African countries will follow this example, in order to prevent this damaging illegal trade.  As the President of Gabon explained: “We are talking of course with our neighbours. Animals do not know borders, they move from a country to another. It is important that what we are doing here is being done in other countries. So as we go along, we will have common action in the future.”

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