National Geographic Daily News
Workers destroy confiscated ivory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. China destroyed about 6 tons of illegal ivory from its stockpile on Monday, in an unprecedented move wildlife groups say shows growing concern about the black market trade by authorities in the world's biggest market for elephant tusks.

Workers destroy six tons of confiscated ivory in Dongguan, China, on January 6.

PHOTOGRAPH BY VINCENT YU, AP    

Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic

Published January 6, 2014

On January 6, the government of China held a public ceremony to destroy six tons of elephant ivory seized from the illegal trade. The event took place in Dongguan in Guangdong Province.

Workers pushed tusks and ivory sculptures into a noisy, green crushing machine.

The event is the first of its kind in China and follows a crush of six tons of confiscated ivory in the U.S. in November, in Denver.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which had representatives observing the crush in China, about 96 elephants a day are killed illegally in Africa, largely because of the demand for their ivory. Much of that ivory ends up in China, where it is carved and sold domestically or abroad.

There are an estimated 500,000 elephants left in Africa, and poaching them is a $10 billion business that draws international crime syndicates and terrorist groups.

International trade in ivory was outlawed in 1990, but poaching continues to fuel a thriving black market. Some legal sales of ivory stockpiles have also been allowed, which critics say has made enforcement more difficult. (Read "Ivory Worship" in National Geographic magazine.)

Over the years, a number of countries have participated in high-profile burns or crushes of confiscated ivory, including Kenya, Gabon, the Philippines, and the U.S.

Although ivory is seized at national borders, sale of ivory products remains legal domestically in the U.S. and China. Because the material is difficult to identify, date, and track, legal markets incentivize traffickers to try to cheat the system, critics such as the WCS say.

According to a WCS statement, "In the U.S., WCS seeks national and state moratoria on all purchases and sales of ivory, and in Asia WCS assists concerned citizens who wish to educate their countrymen and women through social media about the lethal cost of ivory to Africa's elephants."

Zhao Shucong, director of China's State Forestry Administration, admitted to the Washington Post that ivory smuggling is "still raging" and said that China is "in urgent need of sincere collaboration with different countries and international organizations" in its attempts at dealing with the problem.

Adding their voice to the mix, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tweeted, "We commend China for destroying more than 6 tons of illegal elephant ivory." But writing for Vice, Derek Mead was more measured: "China's ivory crush is a good first step, but that's all it is."

Mead added, "As long as there's legal ivory for sale and consumers who will pay top dollar for it, poachers will try to make a buck flipping illegal product."

Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.

51 comments
Edmond Hon
Edmond Hon

When aspiring owners of ivory products are cognizant of the bad Karma and legal consequence of buying things made with teeth pulled from brutally poached giants among mammals, most should cool their desire thus reducing the demand ,


Public display of ivory destruction alone is political grand standing .Publicizing poachers' brutal methods with graphic images of dead elephants with bleeding mouths on  mass media serving the potential market should bring awareness of bad Karma to the superstitious collectors .


Dan Tuckey
Dan Tuckey

I cant believe that people would do this to a living creature its like someone ripping your teeth out with no numbing agents and selling them for thousands of pounds

Dan Tuckey
Dan Tuckey

why would people even dream of doing that to a living thing its like someone taking out your teeth with no numbing agent and sell it for thousands of dollars

Bergers Jeroen
Bergers Jeroen

when you try to catch my teeth you get the bullet.when you try the teeth from elefants you go to hell

Stephen Crockett
Stephen Crockett

Why would you crush it? What is the powder used for? if anything at all..maybe i missed that part... but wouldn't destroying what they have already illegally obtained just force them to acquire more? 

People are greedy and they will want to replace what was taken. Why not sell those pieces off to the highest bidder and use the money for preserving the elephant population. If not that then find a use for the crushed ivory.. unless there is one that i am unaware of... but i mean what is the point of destroying it. 

Gord Adams
Gord Adams

The people on this board who advocate making the ivory trade legal to drive down the demand are obviously not very good at math.  There are half a million elephants left, and there are 2 billion Chinese.  Ethical considerations aside, you could not drive down demand because you do not have a base that will allow you to flood the market.

Shankha Sarkar
Shankha Sarkar

Nice move on elephants China, much appreciated. When will you act on tigers?

Lê Bách
Lê Bách

china that my country called it is "tàu khựa". it is bad country, and i think all country on the world hate it, 

you can refer to dang tin rao vat mien phi http://raokhang.com to review

Scottie Harrison
Scottie Harrison

This is where drones can come in use...to catch poachers.

Rudresh Kumartk
Rudresh Kumartk

At least the Government would have sell the ivory and that money would have spend for the growth and care of elephants, now the demand for elephant tusk wont reduce in black market wont reduce 

Rudresh Kumartk
Rudresh Kumartk

At least the Government would have sell the ivory and that money would have spend for the growth and care of elephants. now by destroying the ivory the demand for the tusks in black market wont reduce 

Graham Beencke
Graham Beencke

I offer my congratulations to China for taking this step towards the Illegal trade of ivory and the protection of elephants. May God Bless those responsible for this action 

Koen Kurvink
Koen Kurvink

i don't see the use of destroying the ivory, now those elephants died for nothing

just get it in a museum or just behind closed doors.

jia huai
jia huai

Ivory powder as drug in medicine in China

charles wright
charles wright

Governments think they have to do "something" to alleviate problems. Here; as in the US; the Chinese destroy ivory artifacts to make them less desirable in the market place - where rarity is the driving force of market value.  Is there a better example anywhere of a more self defeating enterprise?

Jada Sndyer
Jada Sndyer

I have to agree with Jack Handy. This is like asking for more elephant deaths.

Jack Handy
Jack Handy

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but making ivory legal would protect the elephant species more than anything else. Destroying the ivory just lowers the black market supply, increasing the price and thus the incentive to poach.

Making it legal would allow people to have elephant farms, just like cow farms or pig farms. There is a reason there isn't a shortage of cows. They are bred in massive amounts for the products we get from them. There is no way the cow will go extinct as long as there is a legal market for its product.

Now some may argue the ethics of raising an elephant or any animals for a product. That is a different argument. But allowing the legal raising of an animal for an end product will guarantee the survival of the species and eliminate most poaching as the price for doing so won't be worth their effort.

Jeremy Ramos
Jeremy Ramos

The poaching of ivory and the sale thereof should be treated as a crime of the highest magnitude, equivalent to mass murder. Equating the sale of ivory to mass murder may be a far-fetched idea to some, but if they would take the time to look at pictures of entire groups and families of elephants slaughtered by poachers wielding AK47s and grenades (see National Geopraphic October 2012 issue) I am pretty sure they would change their minds. There are only 500,000 elephants left and if they are killed at the rate of 96 a day, they would soon be all gone in less than a decade. The UN, individual countries, the WCS, and other concerned organizations should push for a total worldwide ban on all sales of ivory and ivory products. If such wording is not clear enough, make it completely illegal to buy and sell all ivory and ivory products, in all countries; and seek prosecution and impose maximum penalties, including huge fines and up to life imprisonment, for individuals found guilty of selling or buying ivory and ivory products. Faced with such penalties, that should greatly reduce and hopefully eliminate all buyers of ivory and anyone else contemplating to do so. With no one to sell to, poachers will have no motivation to kill any more elephants.

Terrence Rose
Terrence Rose

The US is also to blame as ivory sales are still allowed domestically

Paul Rosenbaum
Paul Rosenbaum

Oh, my bad.. I didn't read the article before posting that comment. The fact that China is crushing this confiscated ivory is a good thing! My Bad. Sorry, Mr Obama, you're cool. I hope China stops the spread of illegal spread of the ivory tusk market. 

Paul Rosenbaum
Paul Rosenbaum

Why isn't President Obama speaking out about this? He's so unpopular for the things he's been doing that nobody wants, why doesn't he do something we all can agree on, which is to hold China responsible for it's crimes against wildlife?

Charles Becker
Charles Becker

Crushed ivory to be used in McDonald's buns as an "all natural" ingredient.  

Ewald Lai
Ewald Lai

u know what
without china there will be less threatened animals

Wendy Seah
Wendy Seah

At least China is rectifying the problem, a change of evolution that tags onto current conservation. Good job.....when the demands go down, the supplies go down - same as shark fin etc

Padmanaban Ananthasayanam
Padmanaban Ananthasayanam

@Dan Tuckey Do u think Elephant will allow to take the tusk consciously , POACHERS FIRST KILL IT THEN REMOVE THE TUSK WITH AN AXE, LIKE CUTTING A TREE. Those who buys it are more cruel than who takes from the elephant .

Shuami Bev
Shuami Bev

@Lê BáchAnd you are one troll who is trying to drive traffic to your website. Tells a lot about you, who bad-mouth another country while your own country itself is doing a lot of poaching. That makes you a rather bad person

Michael Williamson
Michael Williamson

@Graham Beencke And all they've done is drive up the price of what's left.  They should have sold it for $1/lb to reduce the demand for poached ivory.

Adrian Dumbravescu
Adrian Dumbravescu

@Jack Handy I think the sole way to protect elephants is by effective border controls and armed guards to protect reservations. Also increasing  jail sentences for such criminals may can help too.

Destroying ivory artifacts is just a stupid approach.

Farming elephants is probably not economically reasonable due high costs and very low productivity. Ivory always can be replaced by some synthetic materials which have similar or even better qualities. 

A quite exotic  idea can be to use genetic engineering to use ivory gens from elephant to create some mutant cow or other more common animal to produce ivory horns.

I think solutions always can be found if is a real economic need for such material. The only problem is to make poaching less efficient than other ways.

Eve Mazurek
Eve Mazurek

@Jack Handy but elephants are super intelligent animals and to have elephant farms would just be a disgrace, it would show just how greedy us humans are and would let thousands of animals suffer in horrible conditions just for a small fraction of their body's, (tusks) i think people need to be more educated and to be honest a lot lack empathy and dont care about another being or animal suffering, its quite scarey actually,

David Trinh
David Trinh


@Jack Handy How can you justify your statement? You do know that elephants only give birth to one calve every 4-6 years; unlike cows, chickens or pigs. It would be insufficient, unethical, immoral and cruel to these beautiful animals. As for the destruction of ivory, it's quite simple; it's a message to poachers that their efforts are in vain. That is the message the government is trying to send out. It is also to stop people from buying these products which in turn makes ivory a less profitable trade. However, you do shed some light on the flaws in the governments plans; a much more effective approach would be to arrest anyone caught selling or buying these products with the punishment of imprisonment and heavy fines and having the merchants who continually put a price on ivory executed publicly. 

Ezz El Sherbiny
Ezz El Sherbiny

@Jack Handy I like your idea.  If this is doable I believe it would end the illegal ivory trade and save the wild elephant population as a part of the environmental balance.  The fact that it's not been done 'so far however is possibly because it would not work economically, ie the cost of raising an elephant vs the value of it's whole body constituents..  

Felicia Faulkner
Felicia Faulkner

@Paul Rosenbaum ok, I see your previous comment.... but still, what does any of this have to do with Obama? It's between China and Africa. And them only. 

Mark Reed
Mark Reed

@Paul Rosenbaum 

How can you pack so much non-sense into one paragraph?

Emma Craig
Emma Craig

@Ewald Lai There would also be a disaster in the U.S. economy. I bet you right now if you look at all the products in the room you're in the majority will be made in China. 

Michael Williamson
Michael Williamson

@David Trinh @Jack Handy and how effective have such measures been at stopping poaching?  Oh, wait, they haven't been.


Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is called "insanity."

It's quite simple (for anyone who can think). Destroying 6 tons of ivory means the price of the rest just went UP.  Instead, they should have sold the stuff cheap on eBay and driven the price DOWN.

Caroline LeBreton
Caroline LeBreton

@Felicia Faulkner@Paul Rosenbaum because ivory is being allowed to be sold in the united states, but his previous comment dosent make much sense though

Otto van Zanten
Otto van Zanten

@Mark Reed More then half of the US doesn't trust Obama according to more and more polls, múch more then half of the rest of the world doesn't trust him either because they don't see his enchanting speeches but only see his actions. Most people like the existence of elephants... So I only see sense in his comment.

Mark Reed
Mark Reed

@Emma Craig@Ewald Lai 

So returning our manufacturing base to the US would be a "disaster"? 

Please think about what you just posted for a moment…

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