The Chinese government crushed nearly 1,500 pounds of confiscated elephant tusks and ivory carvings Friday morning in Beijing, the state news agency Xinhua reported, a day after the renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang urged travelers not to bring ivory back to China in an awareness campaign at the Beijing Capital International Airport.
This was a third batch of contraband ivory destroyed in China over the past 18 months, part of an ongoing effort to curb illegal ivory trade. The move was praised by international conservation groups, as China is widely believed to be the world’s largest consumer market for illegal ivory products, according to a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The ivory destruction on Friday, which was co-organized by the country’s forestry and customs authorities, followed the crushing of 6.2 tons of illegal ivory in the southern city of Dongguan in January of last year, the first public destruction of its kind in China. Hong Kong began the incineration. The ivory destroyed Friday was seized in various law enforcement operations since 2014.
Yu Guangzhou, Minister of the General Administration of Customs, said the destruction would serve as “a starting point” for the agency to “step up the crackdown on illegal trade in ivory and other wildlife.”
On Thursday, Lang Lang participated in a campaign co-hosted by the Beijing airport customs and conservation groups, the African Wildlife Foundation, Save the Elephants and WildAid, to urge travelers not to bring ivory back to China.
WildAid’s executive director, Peter Knights, applauded the ivory destruction in an emailed statement Friday.
“This is China’s third public ivory crush in 18 months, indicating an increasing effort and resolve from the government,” he said.
A recent survey of Hong Kong residents commissioned by WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants indicated 75 percent of the respondents supported a ban on ivory sales in the territory, and 91 percent said they did not own any ivory products. Hong Kong remains a major market and transit point for ivory because of the demand among tourists from mainland China.
Illegal trade of wildlife products is punishable by up to life in prison in China. The country imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory carvings in a bid to protect African elephants. But the country’s legal domestic ivory trade has been left intact, which keeps driving up ivory prices and prompts more poaching in Africa, conservation groups say.By VANESSA PIAO & CHERIE CHAN