DENR to destroy P420-M worth of seized elephant tusks

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QUEZON CITY, June 10 -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to destroy about five tons of confiscated elephant tusks estimated to be worth US$10 million or roughly P420 million in support of global effort to end the illegal trade of wildlife species.

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in a statement said the seized ivory tusks will be crushed by a road roller and burned in the presence of foreign experts and anti-ivory trade advocates on June 21 at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

“Our decision to destroy these ivory tusks that entered the country illegally is to show to the whole world that the Philippines will not tolerate illegal wildlife trade,” Paje said.

The destruction of the ivory tusks is one of the highlights of the national celebration of June as Environment Month.

In 1989, the Geneva-based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), to which the Philippines is a signatory, banned the buying and selling of ivory to combat a massive illegal trade that caused dramatic declines in elephant populations throughout most of Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

Elephants are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES, which means they are highly endangered, and are banned from international trade. CITES said the high demand for ivory found in elephant tusks drives the killing of the animal, especially in Africa.

CITES is an international agreement adopted in March 1973 to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species. It earlier reported that the current black market price for ivory is $2,000 per kilogram.

In 1997, the Conference of Parties of CITES has included the Philippines as one of nine countries of priority of concerns as regard illegal ivory trade, particularly its role as a trade route and transit country for elephant tusks.

The other eight are Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, which are considered as major sources of ivory in illicit trade; China and Thailand as destinations of illegal ivory; and Hong Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam as trade routes and transit countries.

The DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) has been designated as the country’s CITES Management Authority pursuant to Republic Act No. 9247, or the Wildlife Resource Conservation and Protection Act.

Those who are expected to witness the destruction of confiscated elephant tusks are representatives from the CITES Secretariat, the Nairobi-based Lusaka Agreement Task Force led by its chairman Bonaventure Ebayi, the National Geographic Africa, and member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Top executives from the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Philippine National Police were also invited to attend the event.

Secretary Paje will keynote the event, with messages from the representatives of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and CITES Secretariat. Lawyer Bryan Christy, an investigative journalist of National Geographic, on the hand, will give a presentation entitled, “Battle for Elephant: the Global Ivory Trade.” (DENR)

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