March 3, 2018
Neelima Choahan & Shiamak Unwalla, Canberra Times
See link for photos.
They once adorned an elephant: large incisor teeth used in battle, to gather food or to dig.
But human greed has turned the tusks, made of dentine, the bony tissue that forms the bulk of our teeth, into trinkets.
According to For the Love of Wildlife, an Australian animal welfare organisation, an elephant is killed for its tusk every 15 minutes.
On Saturday, the organisation crushed more than 120 kilograms of ivory items in the middle of Bourke Street Mall before about 100 cheering people. Most items were donated by the federal government and some by supporters.
Founding director Donalea Patman calling on a total ban on buying and selling of ivory antiques in the local market.
"Domestic trade is legal in Australia," Ms Patman said. "What we find is that illegal product is getting through and once it is in the country everybody assumes it is legal, so laundered items are being sold through our domestic trade."
Fewer than 400,000 African elephants survive, she said.
The organisation is also calling on the ban of all domestic trade in rhino horn. According to the group, trafficking in wildlife is valued between US$5 billion and $20 billion a year, making it the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, human trafficking and firearms.
"The government has an opportunity to be part of the solution ... rather than for us to be complicit in wildlife crime," Ms Patman said.
"With 30 per cent of elephants being wiped out in the last seven years and rhinosbeing butchered on a daily basis, we must instil change.”
In 2016, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) adopted a unanimous resolution recommending all members close down their domestic markets for ivory. France and China have already done so.
Australian fashion designer Collette Dinnigan, who was born in South Africa, said she backed the cause in part after seeing the brutality towards elephants.
"Our children won't probably see these magnificent creatures that have graced the planet for thousands of years," Ms Dinnigan said.
Karen Pomeranz, who donated eight serviette rings she received as a wedding gift 30 years ago, said she felt "joy" at seeing them destroyed.
"I kept thinking what right do we as people have to kill something ... to remove a part of it and use it for no really good reason," she said.
"So when the opportunity to get involved in this came around, I looked around and found ... I happen to have that dead creature's part in my drawer."