By Laurel Neme
When the Philippines destroyed its five-ton stockpile of seized elephant tusks on June 21, it marked not only the first time an ivory-consuming nation took such a public action but also the first time a country took key steps to guarantee that it could not re-enter the black market.
Before this, all previous large-scale public destructions were by fire. The burning of 12 tons of elephant tusks by Kenya in 1989 captured media attention and helped lead to the international ivory trade ban the following year.
It also set the standard for future destruction of ivory stockpiles. Zambia burned 9.5 tons in 1992; Kenya, another 5 tons in 2011; Gabon, 4.8 tons in 2012.
The Philippines, rather than opting for the visually evocative burning of a massive pyre, decided to crush its ivory with road equipment and burn what remained.
A Durable Substance
Unless the fire is sustained at high temperatures for long periods of time, burning does not destroy elephant ivory. Instead, it chars the exterior and leaves the inside intact.
Consider what happens with human teeth. Whether subjected to fiery car crashes or raging house fires, these tiny pieces endure. That’s why they’re used for identification when everything else is annihilated.
Even in the cremation process, teeth survive. (A processor often pulverizes the unburned teeth into a fine powder.) More....