France’s ivory crush very encouraging, says Jane Goodall
Adam Cruise
6 Feb 2014

Paris, France – France is set to crush part of her 17 ton ivory stockpile today, according to the country’s Ecology Ministry.

“We are very satisfied that the French state has changed its doctrine; moving away from the stockpiling of seized ivory,” said France-based environmental group Robin des Bois (Robin Hood in English) president Jacky Bonnemains. Speaking to Reuters he said: “We hope that this new approach of systematically destroying seized ivory will be extended to rhino horn and other illegal animal products.”

The first crush of 3 tons near the Eiffel Tower is meant to be a ceremonial symbol; the rest will be destroyed at a later date. Bonnemains said that Thursday’s ivory crush in Paris should set the standard for the rest of the continent: “We call upon the rest of the European Union to do the same.”

France follows in the wake of several other countries like the US, China, Philippines, Ghana and Kenya, while Hong Kong has announced it will incinerate it’s 28 tons over the next two years.

Speaking yesterday to renowned environmental journalist, Don Pinnock, Dame Jane Goodall says it “very encouraging” that these countries are destroying their stockpiles. The message, she said, “was certainly getting around.” Goodall, who turns 80 in April and has been in conservation for more than 50 years, is vociferously against the trade in ivory, stating that lifting the ban on the ivory trade “would be criminal”.

Her adopted country, Tanzania, that still has a large ivory stockpile, is one of the countries calling for the ban to be lifted. According to Goodall, who recently spoke to the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania insists that the proceeds from the sale of their ivory stockpile will allow them “to conserve better”. But, says Goodall, “there are other ways of getting money” and with Kenya and Togo taking tough stance on ivory poaching, the heat is on the Tanzanian government to revise their policy. Togo recently confiscated a huge container hiding 2 tons of ivory that was destined for Vietnam, while Kenya handed a stiff fine of US$230,000 to a Chinese national accused of ivory smuggling.

Tanzania has been in the forefront of the elephant poaching crisis. The country has lost over 60% of its elephant population in the past five years, despite its controversial heavy-handed crackdown on rural villagers suspected of poaching. The operation that began in October 2013 had to be briefly suspended amid claims of human rights violations, including homicide, rape and humiliation mainly inflicted by the army in charge with carrying out the operation. Victims were semi-nomadic pastoralists who illegally but habitually use national parks and reserves for grazing. Nevertheless, the President overturned the ruling vowing to continue with the operation.

Tanzania has also amassed a huge stockpile, mostly confiscated from containers that were bound for the illicit transit countries of Malaysia and Vietnam, hinting that the poaching problem had less to do with rural Tanzanians and more to do with high level crime syndicates. The stockpile is valued at a few million dollars, which is why the government regard as a potential financial boon.

But with France being the latest country to destroy its stockpile and in laying down the marker to the rest of the EU, there is little doubt other European countries will soon follow suit. The pressure is now firmly on the Tanzanian, and other African governments with big stockpiles, to do the same.