Belgium crushes 1.5 tons of seized ivory

2014-04-10 05:45

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Brussels - Belgium has destroyed 1.5 tonnes of ivory seized at the country's ports and airports over the last 25 years, in a public condemnation of the illegal trade in the material derived from the tusks of poached elephants.

"Through this act of destruction, we are sending a clear message to criminals: Belgium does not tolerate the trafficking of ivory or its consequences on elephant populations," Vice Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx said, according to Belga news agency.

The destroyed objects included sculptures, jewellery, chopsticks and Japanese hanko seals, as well as raw tusks.

The aim was to "degrade this ivory to an object without any value," Onkelinx said.

Tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered each year for their tusks, fuelling a global ivory trade estimated to be worth $10bn.

Azzedine Downes, the president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was also present to witness the ivory being put through a crusher at the Palace of the Colonies, on the outskirts of Brussels.

With an estimated 500 000 elephants left in the wild, Downes warned that the animal could be gone in 10 years' time.

The illegal trade of animals and threatened plants -including ivory trafficking - is the fourth largest criminal market behind drugs, human trafficking and weapons, according to the organisers of Wednesday's initiative.

It is often carried out by "terrorist associations of rebel movements that finance their actions by poaching," the organisers wrote.

The United States, China and France have also destroyed a combined 15 tons of ivory in recent months, according to IFAW.

Read more on:    belgium  |  poaching

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