Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Born Free applauds Sri Lanka ivory crush

26 January 2016

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News, Sri Lanka News, Wildlife Trade News

'Overwhelmingly, the world now recognises that ivory belongs on elephants, and nowhere else’

Today, on International Customs Day, the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA applaud the Sri Lankan government for destroying more than 350 elephant tusks.

To demonstrate Sri Lanka’s commitment to combatting the illegal wildlife trade, the country’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, as well as Ministers, diplomats and other distinguished guests - including John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES (Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species) and Born Free’s Country Representative for Sri Lanka, elephant scientist Manori Gunawardena - witnessed the permanent destruction of hundreds of seized ivory tusks.

Manori Gunawardena was jubilant and believed the event signaled a strong willingness for her country to combat illegal trade at the international as well as national level: “I am relieved that it’s finally happening and am thrilled at the buy in from the President and Prime Minister. Sri Lanka is making a very strong statement by going ahead with the destruction with the support of the highest levels of government.”

A sombre ceremony held by all Sri Lanka’s religious faiths also took place, blessing the elephants who lost their lives for their ivory. The Buddhist spokesperson, The Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero, emphasised that ivory from slaughtered elephants could not be venerated, and that since all living creatures were connected in the karmic cycle we should confer blessings on the killed elephants, as we would our deceased relatives. 

Within the local context, Ms Gunawardena believed the event, “would educate Sri Lankans on the gravity of global wildlife crime and its impact on their country. Culturally the Sri Lankan public will never condone the slaughter of elephants”.

Adam M. Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA, welcomed Sri Lanka’s bold move. He said: “This brave decision by the Sri Lankan government is to be loudly applauded. Overwhelmingly, the world now recognises that ivory belongs on elephants, and nowhere else. Today, Sri Lanka joins the growing number of countries taking bold action to deny wildlife traffickers their blood money and blaze a path for a future with wild elephants.

The ivory was seized by Sri Lanka Customs in Colombo in May 2012 from a ship en route from Mombasa Port in Kenya to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Had it not been impounded, from Dubai the ivory would have been sent to Thailand. Following a request of the Sri Lankan government, a team from the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime collected DNA samples from the seized ivory and later forensic analysis revealed that the elephants had been poached in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique.

China, Kenya, Mozambique, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the United States all took a stand against illegal wildlife crime in 2015 by holding high-profile events to destroy ivory stockpiles. Earlier this month, Hong Kong also revealed plans to ban the import and export of ivory and close domestic markets.

Based on Born Free’s monitoring of reports relating to ivory seizures, it is estimated that more than 139,000 elephants have been poached for their ivory since January 2012 ( Born Free helped secure the international ban in commercial trade in ivory in 1989 and since then has campaigned tirelessly against attempts to reopen international trade in ivory as well as to bring an end to all domestic and legal trade. Born Free also investigates poaching, exposes illegal ivory smuggling and provides protection to elephants in their range countries.

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