By Wills Robinson
The Chinese government destroyed more than six tonnes of confiscated ivory to demonstrate the country's determination to tackle the growing black market and smuggling trade.
A vast collection of carvings, ornaments and tusks, were put on display before they were fed into crushing machines, in Dongguan city, southern Guangdong province, where much of China's ivory trade is focused.
The destroyed goods, which were manufactured from 600 dead elephants, were seized by customs officials on shipments from Africa and were also taken from factories and shops around China.
The material can fetch up to $2,000 a kilogram on the black market, earning it the nickname 'white gold.'
The demand for it in China is growing and is causing poaching cases to rise, with criminal gangs in Sub-Saharan Africa routinely slaughter elephants for ivory markets in Asia, conversation groups have claimed.
But activists have said the country's first large-scale ivory destruction was a landmark move in the ongoing bid to stop the illegal trade.
China is following other countries that have destroyed their ivory stocks in the past year.
In June, the Philippines burned and crushed more than 5 tons of ivory worth an estimated $10 million confiscated since 2009, becoming the first Asian country to do so.
In November, the United States destroyed six tons of ivory seized over 25 years. Gabon burned nearly five tons in 2012.
The United States, which sent officials to Monday's ivory destruction, commended China.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said such actions 'will send a powerful message to wildlife poachers and traffickers and to the consumers of illegal wildlife products.'
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said the destruction was a powerful symbolic act that shows that the Chinese government is 'concerned about the toll ivory trafficking is taking on elephant populations, as well as the other threats to regional security that arise in connection with wildlife crime.'
Ivory destruction in countries along the trade chain 'clearly tells consumers everywhere that ivory buying is unethical and wrong.'
It is estimated that more than 35,000 elephants were killed last year by poachers for ivory.
Demand is fueled by rapid growth in the world's second biggest economy, which has created a vast middle class with the spending power to buy ivory carvings prized as status symbols.
Businessmen and government officials often exchange items made from ivory when deals are struck. Good photos.