The government of Gabon, a sovereign state on the west coast of Africa, set fire to over five tons of ivory today—sending a strong message that the illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching will not be tolerated in the country. The government-held stockpile corresponds to about 850 elephants and came from ivory seized from poachers who illegally killed the animals.
"Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced," said President Ali Bongo, who lit the bonfire which included 1,278 elephant tusks and 17,700 pieces of worked ivory. Illegal ivory seized by authorities in Gabon had been stored in secure locations protected by the government.
2011 Worst Year for Elephant Poaching
This event comes at a time when elephant poaching in Central Africa is accelerating. Although international ivory trade has been illegal since a global ban took effect in 1989, demand remains high in several Asian countries. This continues to drive elephant poaching in Africa; a report released earlier this month found that 2011 was the worst year on record for elephant poaching in Africa.
“By setting ablaze its ivory stockpile, Gabon has shown its commitment to stamping out wildlife crime to protect its elephants,” said WWF’s Dr. Richard Carroll who was present at the event. “Thousands of Africa’s elephants are being killed each year for their ivory and if we fail to take action now, decades of conservation efforts will go up in smoke.”
Hear Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, talks about why Gabon’s commitment is so important:
WWF Works to Stop Wildlife Crime
In response to the alarming increase in elephant poaching the U.S. Government helped put together a workshop in Gabon this past April. At the workshop Gabon announced it would be burning its ivory stockpile. The gathering brought together Central African and Asian governments, specialized UN agencies and international organizations such as INTERPOL and the Kenya Wildlife Service.
After this announcement was made, WWF and TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, worked with Gabon to independently audit its government-owned ivory stockpile before any of it was destroyed. The audit ensured that every single piece of ivory was accounted for and none had leaked into illegal trade.
“WWF applauds Gabon and calls on leaders from Central Africa and Asia to band together and break the illegal ivory trade chain,” said Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President, Conservation Strategy and Science. “WWF stands ready to support grassroots action and global strategies to stop wildlife crime, which jeopardizes the future of some of the planet’s most iconic wildlife.”