By Philip Mansbridge
There's a rumour going down that Prince William wants to destroy all of the Royal ivory collection.
This is part of his genuinely valiant crusade against the barbaric poaching crisis currently raging across Africa, resulting in the death of around 35,000 elephants in Africa alone every year. Do the maths if you like, but that's about one elephant being slaughtered for its tusks every 15 minutes.
The source of the rumour is very reputable indeed - none other than world renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, a lady who has dedicated her life to helping understand and support primates. Care for the Wild worked with her some years ago on setting up a chimpanzee sanctuary in Kenya that still to this day provides a safe haven for countless chimps rescued from trade in West Africa. So, there's certainly no reason to not trust someone like Jane, but the Palace is leaving us guessing still..... for now.
So, would this a good thing or not? Just the other day we were on BBC Radio 5 Live countering the arguments of the BBC's David Batty, from Antiques Roadshow, who apparently has written an open letter to Prince William saying he shouldn't destroy the royal ivory, and that doing so would be like 'Nazism' or the Taliban... By any stretch that seems inappropriate and extreme - but clearly this idea has rattled some cages!
The truth is that destroying works of art and trying to erase history isn't the answer... in itself. We cannot and should not attempt to erase history. What has happened has happened, but what is important is that we learn from history, use it to better ourselves, use it to remedy the issues that once presented themselves and that once burdened us and tarnished our names.
So, scooping your ivory figurine off the mantelpiece that you bought on your honeymoon in the 70s and running it over with your Vauxhall Astra may not work for everyone. But without doubt I'd fully support the Royal Family destroying some or all of its ivory collection as a symbolic gesture. Such figures of true global influence and significance doing this would send out a strong and clear message that ivory just isn't en vogue anymore and isn't acceptable.
Globally we've seen attitudes to ivory changing over the last few years, particularly in the last 12 months or so. Lots of countries such as the USA, France, the Philippines, and hell, even China (wtf) chose to publicly destroy some or all of their ivory stockpiles - so a Royal ivory crush would certainly raise the bar and continue to feed this impressive impetus.
However, like I said, crushing or destroying antique ivory in itself isn't directly stopping or indeed ever going to stop the trade. And that's what we're aiming for: No trade, No demand Equals No Killing. 'Simples' as Sergie Meerkat would say.
The key underlying issue here though, is that the someone like Prince William destroying something like the gifted ivory throne from India, which belonged to Queen Victoria and dates back to 1851, and is no doubt worth millions, helps to send the message that the ivory trade should be stopped - in any guise. Just because the blood's had time to wear off the ivory doesn't mean it wasn't there.
Legal, illegal, new or antique - its time for global governments to draw a line through the sand. They must make it clear that the trade in ivory of any kind is both promoting and masking the killing of elephants on an epic scale that will wipe them from the face of this earth in a matter of decades - unless this is stopped now.
We have to make a stand and say that looking at something from a slaughtered elephant, no matter how intricate a design, just isn't beautiful anymore. Likewise, while antique ivory can be traded it will always mask the illegal ivory trade. Just this week an apparently 'faux' ivory-handled Chinese mirror sold for £900 on eBay UK with no questions asked. Seems high for a plastic mirror. One watcher was from Thailand, seems strange, surely they have plastic mirrors there for less?
Anyhow, I guess it comes down to this - people who own ivory need to make a choice. For many it may have historical or sentimental value, but ultimately what we need to see is a pledge or an action that would make that individual piece of ivory un-tradable.
Care for the Wild would support anyone bold enough to destroy their ivory in order to make this simple point: where we stand right now, you can have ivory or you can have elephants, but you just can't have them both.