See link for photos.
Recently, I witnessed the first ever destruction of confiscated ivory in Thailand. Great job to the Department of National Parks for their hard work and researching the best ways to destroy the ivory with transparency.
They also thought about the impacts of burning ivory on the environment and made sure there was proper processing at an incinerator to filter and manage the harmful substances generated from the burning.
The ivory was incinerated at 900 degrees centigrade and was carefully watched and monitored by witnesses. The end product was black ash which will be buried at another site.
I guess it depends on which perspective you are looking at it. It surely is a controversial topic. Are lives lost for nothing or do we make sure the ivory taken from African elephants (who lost their lives due to the demand of ivory) are not used because of the actual fact that they were obtained illegally? In addressing this question, here are some points (and invariably more questions) to consider.
The ivory was never meant to be in Thailand to begin with. It was not ours or our possession and so we should not feel that it is a waste. Thailand still allows ivory to be sold and owned within the country, and are taken from domestic elephants and do not need to be hurt or killed.
Should we send it back to its country. At this point, it is difficult to tell where in Africa each piece of ivory comes from. I’m sure DNA testing and tracking would also cost quite a bit of money. And who’s tax money should be spent, Thai or African? If Africa then which country in Africa?
We have to admit, we do not live in a society with all honest people who are not corrupt. Allowing the use of dismissed confiscated ivory opens up more opportunities for corrupt individuals to bring in the ivory, get caught, pay a small fine, then wait for the ivory to be legal, get the ivory back and still make profit off of the elephant they killed, legally. (This does happen and not just on the level of wildlife trade.)
Destroying ivory does use budget but so does keeping ivory long term. You still need to hire people to look after it, pay for storage and for how long? This also uses tax payers money. Destroying ivory gets rid of the burden a little at a time.
There are still several tons of ivory left pending court cases and it is not to say that the DNP is not allowing any use at all. They have given a portion of it to credible institutes who are allowed to use it for education and research. The burden of keeping confiscated items or animals is very long term and uses unnecessary budget.
This is also just the beginning. I think we are focusing on the wrong thing. Everyone looks at Thailand and criticises the actions by officials, even when officials try to make things transparent. But the focus should be on the country in which they came from.
The burden should be theirs for allowing ivory to be taken out of their country in the first place. Why are we not criticising their lack of security which enabled several tons of ivory out of Africa? The waste, is the waste of the African Elephants who died because of the demand from Asia for ivory products.
Regulating our own trade within the country and only allowing ivory from registered domestic elephants and banning all sales of illegal ivory within the country is a good step forward for conservation of African elephants on the brink of extinction.
But then again, this is my perspective.
Nancy Gibson is the CEO and Founder of Love Wildlife Foundation, and can be contacted through lovewildlife.org/