Gabon Publicly Burns Its Entire Ivory Stockpile
Photograph courtesy James Morgan, WWF
Every country has its resources. Items of great value that help keep it economically viable. Some have gold, oil, diamonds, and others have ivory. Ivory obtained by legal hunting in controlled numbers has been a practice observed for generations, and the return from exports has helped these countries stay afloat.
As with any other trade however, ivory soon landed in the black market, and the number of animals killed by illegal poachers increased dramatically. The ban on ivory trade by CITES in 1989 has only helped to increase the value of ivory, and consequently the demand. This vicious circle has led to the almost complete extinction of these majestic animals.
Recently, Gabon, a country in central Africa has decided it wants nothing more to do with the ivory trade, and has burnt its entire stockpile. The fiery display, ignited by president Ali Bongo took place in the capital city, on top of a hill for all to see. This was the first time that a country has burnt ivory in public. The government says that it is trying to set an example to everyone that wildlife poaching is not tolerated in Gabon, and it will continue to burn any confiscated ivory found in its cities. By burning all their stockpiles they are attempting to decrease the value of ivory and stop demand. Was this, however the right approach?
Burning all its ivory meant that the country has burnt away millions of dollars that could have certainly been put to better use. There are those who believe that by legalizing the trade of ivory, prices are controlled, and the illegal trade will be defeated at some level. If CITES had to lift its ban against ivory trade, Gabon could have sold its ivory, and used that money to increase its enforcement efforts against poachers. A win-win situation it would seem.Continued on the next page