(Manila) – Friday, June 21 to be exact, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources destroyed at least 5 tons of confiscated smuggled elephant ivory tusks, worth an estimated 10 million dollars in the black market. These tusks represent the blood of several hundred elephants massacred for the illegal wildlife trade. Heavy equipment i.e. a road roller and wheeled loader was used to crush the elephant tusks to small pieces before turning them over to the Bureau of Animal Industry to be incinerated.
This unprecedented act makes the Philippines the first ivory consuming country in Asia to conduct physical destruction of its ivory stockpile in support of the global effort to stop the illegal wildlife trade
In the press conference before the actual destruction of the elephant tusks, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said “The Philippines will not be a party to the massacre and we refused to be a conduit to this cycle of killing, we value the living elephants with tusks intact than the ivories from elephants that were killed for their tusks.”
Sadly, in a presentation by the National Geographic Society of the results of their more than two years investigative research on the illegal ivory trade, one of the main drivers of this illegal trade is religion and the Philippine Catholic Church is one of the main consumers of ivory. This seemingly endless devotion and desire to own or collect religious icons creates a huge demand for ivory as these religious icons are all made of ivory. Whether naïve or with full knowledge the Catholic Church fuels the demand for ivory in the black market.
Also in the press conference was the launching of the Philippines Operation Group on Ivory (POGI) a multi-agency task force designed to investigate ivory smuggling and to prosecute those involve.
The physical destruction of the elephant tusk was witnessed by officials from the US Embassy, Lusaka Agreement Task Force and Kenya Wildlife Service, ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, National Geographic Society, Members of the Press both local and international and other government officials.