Strong signal to ivory thieves

Sending a strong message of how there is no money to be made from blood ivory, Sri Lanka's government displayed its biggest-ever illegal ivory haul at the Galle Face promenade in Colombo yesterday - and then fed it to a crusher.

The international trade in ivory has been banned in most of the world since 1989, but illegal smuggling persists in many parts of Asia where ivory is highly prized for medicinal and decorative uses.

The 359 tusks were from African elephants slaughtered for their tusks and were seized at Colombo's port nearly four years ago en route to Dubai. Colombo Customs Director Udayantha Liyanage told Agence France-Presse: "It is horribly cruel and the elephants suffer for about a week before they die."

The crushed fragments will be sent to an industrial furnace. Blood ivory is a term used by activists to describe tusks that are obtained illegally by slaughtering elephants.

The ivory came from northern Mozambique and Tanzania, and were transported through Kenya to Sri Lanka on the way to the United Arab Emirates, said Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) John Scanlon.

The number of African elephants killed for their tusks peaked in 2011, according to Cites, with about 30,000 animals slaughtered.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Strong signal to ivory thieves'. Print Edition | Subscribe