The Philippines began destroying five tons of elephant tusks on Friday in a landmark event aimed at shedding its image as one of the world's worst hotspots for illegal African ivory trading.
The backhoe of a bulldozer began crushing hundreds of tusks in a wildlife bureau parking lot, as the nation became the first in Asia to eliminate its multi-million-dollar stockpile.
"This act is a strong statement to the rest of the world that the Philippines will not tolerate the illegal wildlife trade," Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said.
The five tons of ivory came from a total of about 13 tons seized by customs officers since the mid 1990s, with the two biggest hauls at Manila's seaport and international airport in 2005 and 2009.
The rest of the ivory, worth millions of dollars on the black market, was stolen over the years.
Most of it went missing while being kept by the customs bureau, a notoriously corrupt organization in the Philippines, and a wildlife bureau officer is on the run after being charged with stealing about 700 kg.
The Philippines was in March named by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, as one of eight nations that was failing to do enough to tackle the illegal trade in elephant ivory.
The United Nations and conservations groups have warned the demand for ivory is leading to the slaughter of thousands of African elephants each year, which could eventually lead to their extinction.
The Philippines was named because of its role as a transport hub for African ivory being smuggled into countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, where demand has skyrocketed in recent years. More....