By Cris Larano
The Philippines on Friday started destroying five tons of ivory, mainly elephant tusks, that were smuggled into the country from Africa and seized by authorities between 1996 and 2009.
The World Wide Fund for Nature estimated the value of the 5,000-kilogram stockpile at $2,000 per kilo, or a total $10 million. But the Department of Environment and Natural Resources placed a lower price tag of $200 a kilo since the ivory isn’t premium quality. In the black market, however, elephant tusks could go for $3,000 a kilo.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said that while African countries have burned ivory publicly, the Philippines would be the first Asian country to destroy such a stockpile of elephant tusks.
“It costs us 2 million Philippine pesos ($46,000) every year to protect it. We have sought and have been given clearance by the Department of Justice to destroy it,” Mr. Paje said. He said a few of the elephant tusks will be turned over the National Museum for their natural history exhibition, while some more will be kept as evidence.
Mr. Paje said that despite the high price of raw ivory in the black market, the government felt it had no choice but to destroy the ivory to send a strong response over the killing of hundreds of elephants by poachers after their precious tusks. “The Philippines will not be a party to the massacre and we refuse to be a conduit to this cycle of killing,” he said.
Mr. Paje presided over the public destruction Friday of the more than a ton of elephant tusks using a backhoe. He said all the five tons would eventually be brought to a government crematorium so that the ivory could be incinerated. He said open burning, as is done in Africa to destroy the ivory, isn’t allowed under the country’s Clean Air Act. More....