Posts Tagged ‘Blood Ivory’

Blood ivory a topic at International Forum on Wildlife Crime

March 17, 2013

Suspect traffickers arrested, stock seized in Lanka vital as probe continues� Malaka Rodrigo reporting from Bangkok

The poaching of elephants for tusks was another issue discussed at the many side events held parallel to the 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) at the Convention of International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) in progress

The fate of the haul of ivory seized recently by Sri Lankan Customs was a hot topic at CITES and the Asian Development Bank side event ‘Symposium on Combating Wildlife Crime’. The senior representatives of Sri Lanka participating at the event said the ivory will not be distributed to the temples.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS representative Halke Elme confirmed Kenya has received a letter from Sri Lanka saying the ivory will not be released. KWS is the state agency of Kenya protecting its wildlife and based on the recent reports that the ivory is to be released, KWS has sent a letter querying Sri Lanka. Mr.Elme said KWS received the reply from the Sri Lanka Government a few days ago.

The representative from the Lusaka Agreement Task Force who was present at the CITES-ADB symposium praised Sri Lanka for the seizure of the ivory. Lusaka Agreement Task Force is a law enforcement institution which is also the Secretariat of the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora. The representative said its officials had arrested suspects believed to be linked to the haul of ivory seized in Sri Lanka and added it is vital that the stock be kept as a criminal investigation is still ongoing.

A monk at Wat That Thong temple in Bangkok During a Buddhist merit-making ceremony to pray for the tens of thousands of elephants poached annually (c) WWF Thailand

A monk at Wat That Thong temple in Bangkok During a Buddhist merit-making ceremony to pray for the tens of thousands of elephants poached annually (c) WWF Thailand

Talking exclusively to the Sunday Times, CITES Secretary General John Scanlon said the convention also recognizes the role of transit countries to curb wildlife crime adding it is difficult to set up general rules for all the transit countries as the situation differs from one country to another. He said the CITES secretariat is aware of the seizure of the haul of the ivory by Sri Lanka Customs and subsequent attempt to release it to temples. Many of the Customs officers and other law enforcement officers present at the symposium shared the challenges they faced and their success stories at the CITES-ADB symposium on Wildlife Crime. It was also mentioned that over 1000 law enforcement officers were killed in trying to protect wildlife during the past decade.

Many of them were killed in Africa by well-armed elephant and rhino poachers, so it was not just the animal population that suffered, but also humans.
The level of interest seen in CITES about the haul of the ivory seized in Sri Lanka along showed that internationally Sri Lanka would get a black mark if we release the ivory for some other purpose. Sri Lanka Custom’s Samantha Gunasekera confirmed the stock of ivory is still in the Customs’ stores.
Thai Buddhist leaders prayed for poached elephants and called for the end to ivory use.

Published on SundayTimes on 17.03.2013

Opposition questions fate of contraband ivory

February 24, 2013

The haul of African Elephant tusks seized by Sri Lanka customs last year are still locked inside the customs stores securely, assured the Leader of the House minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. He made these comments in the parliament on 22nd Friday answering a special statement made by opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe about an attempt to release this stock of ivory.

What will be done for the stock of ivory is yet to be decided after consulting relevant authorities minister further added. Sri Lanka is a signatory of Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) that has black listed ivory as an item that should not be traded internationally. Minister Nimal Siripala stated that the international follow up actions has been conveyed to the relevant international authorities such as Asia Pacific Regional Intelligence Liaisons Office who had tipped Sri Lanka customs to seize the haul of ivory.

Tragedy: The 359 African elephant tusks concealed in a container on a ship sailing from Kenya to Dubai. Pic by Indika Handuwala

Tragedy: The 359 African elephant tusks concealed in a container on a ship sailing from Kenya to Dubai. Pic by Indika Handuwala

The full text of the opposition leader’s statement published in media questions whether this consignment of ivory has been listed with the Wildlife Department. As per the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, when such ivory is taken into custody, it should be listed in the Wildlife Department prior to release from the Customs. However, according to our reliable sources of information, this consignment of ivory had been taken out of the Customs without such a listing, on an order issued by the President’s Office, pointed out the Opposition Leader.

Ranil Wickremasingha also alleged that ivory has been undervalued. According to the market rates, at a glance, they can be valued at a sum over Rs.4,000 million while ivory has been valued at a sum of Rs.450 million, he alleged pointing out that this incident raises a serious concerns as to whether those who are responsible will be up to a racket in the pretext of offering the ivory for the use of temples.

There were 359 tusks in this haul of ivory that was shipped from Kenya, en-route to Dubai. Under the Customs’ Ordinance, the tusks were confiscated. Environmentalists staged their protest to release the tusks claiming that even the international investigation on the ivory is not over. They call either to return this ivory stock to the authorities of country of origin or publicly destroy them since distributing them will add value for the ivory which will create demand.

What is reflected through that offering of blood-smeared ivory to the temples is that our temples agree to any type of inhuman act. Equally, it also brings up a view that it is justifiable to kill tuskers for the purpose of providing ivory to the temples. It also has a direct impact on the population of tuskers in Sri Lanka, states opposition leader’s statement.

Why was the decision to offer this consignment of ivory to the temples taken? Who has taken that decision? Can the list of names of the temples, to which such ivory was decided to be sent, be tabled? Were the Chief Prelates or other priests consulted prior to taking this decision? If so, who are those priests? Is the Ministry of Buddhist Affairs connected with this decision? If so, at what level?; questions the opposition.

Blood ivory is not for showcasing

February 19, 2013

Conservationists and Buddhist monks are against the release of confiscated elephant tusks or their display in temples, writes Malaka Rodrigo

Releasing a cargo of confiscated ivory would only create a demand for more ivory, and this would trigger a surge in the poaching of Sri Lankan tuskers, warn animal lovers.
Environmentalists and conservationists protested on hearing that a consignment of 359 African Elephant tusks seized by the Sri Lanka Customs was to be released last week. Last month, the Presidential Secretariat ordered the Customs to release the ivory for distribution among Buddhist temples.

A majestic sight: Just four days before this African elephant was killed for its tusks. Pic courtesy Ike Leonard

Buddhist groups say the ivory was bought with blood money paid to kill African Elephants for profit, and that the tainted ivory has no place in Buddhist temples or places of veneration. �Prominent Buddhist monk and activist, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, says displaying the ivory in temples would go against the principles of Buddhism, which preached compassion for all living things. The Thera recalled the way tuskers were decimated in colonial times.

“To give the confiscated ivory to temples would be the same as giving any other confiscated goods. This blood ivory is ‘hora badu’ [stolen goods],” said the Ven. Galagodatthe Gnanasara Thera, secretary to the Bodu Bala Sena, a Buddhist activist organisation.

Releasing the stock of contraband ivory would only raise the demand for ivory, said Professor Devake Weerakoon, speaking at a press conference organised by the Federation of Environmental Organizations (FEO) and other environment groups. The African Elephant is being targeted by poachers and the best way to reduce the killing is to prevent the demand from going up, said the professor, who is a member of the International Species Survival Commission for Asian Elephants. The commission comes under the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Trading in ivory was banned internationally in 1989.�Prof. Weerakoon feared the showcasing of African Elephant ivory would put Sri Lankas few remaining tuskers in the wild at risk.

The display of valuable ivory in temples would only encourage looters who were plundering the country for Buddhist artifacts and treasures, said Thilak Kariyawasam of the Environmental Conservation Trust, while Sajeewa Chamikara, also of the trust, said giving ivory to temples was as unacceptable as giving elephant flesh to temples.

Conservationist Rukshan Jayawardane said publicly destroying the stock of ivory would send a strong international message to those who promoted wildlife crime.

2012 peak year for ivory smuggling

While the human-elephant conflict is the main threat to the Asian Elephant, poaching for ivory is the main threat to the African Elephant. Both the male and female African Elephant are blessed – or cursed – with tusks.

Killing elephants for ivory is on the rise, says Dr. Richard Thomas, communications co-ordinator for TRAFFIC, the international conservation organisation. Last year, 2012, was among the five worst years on record for ivory smuggling worldwide, Dr. Thomas said.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times, Dr. Thomas said TRAFFIC would not be in favour of releasing the ivory seized by Sri Lanka Customs. The ivory could “leak” back into the international illegal ivory trade and stimulate further trafficking and concomitant poaching of elephants.

TRAFFIC recommends that any seized ivory be audited and held in secure, government-owned and managed ivory stockpiles to ensure the ivory would not re-enter the illegal trade.

Save-the-Elephants (STE), a Kenya-based conservation organisation, says the number of elephants illegally killed has doubled in the last three years.

Leading African Elephant conservationist Dr. Douglas Hamilton said, “We faced this threat 30 years ago and we know that the situation can be controlled and reversed if the appetite for ivory is reduced. There needs to be united action from concerned individuals, NGOs and governments to reduce the demand for ivory.”

Published on SundayTimes on 17.02.2013