Carved elephant tusks displayed and offered for sale by auction at the recent Algarve International Fair were a timely reminder of
’s long association with
the ivory trade and of stepped-up global efforts to protect elephants by stopping
commerce in ivory and destroying ivory stockpiles. Portugal
“Is it ever okay to sell elephant ivory?” a visitor to the fair asked herself on seeing three elaborately carved pieces said to have originated in South Africa “circa 1960,” with estimated auction values of between €240 and €600.
Current initiatives in Europe and in the
are aimed at saving
elephants, which have been pushed to the brink of extinction by poachers and
smugglers cashing in on the continuing massive demand for ivory. United States
The pieces were on offer at the
the day before Britain’s
Prince William teamed up with sports stars, including football legend David
Beckham, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and
former South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, to launch a United for
Wildlife campaign on behalf of endangered species.
The campaign is but part of a much wider effort involving government lawmakers and leading conservation groups who are trying to put an end to the trade in huge quantities of “white gold,” first shipped in from the west coast of Africa by the Portuguese in the fifteenth and sixteen centuries.
Over the past hundred years, the population of elephants in African has been cut by half. They are being slaughtered at a rate of 30,000 to 35,000 a year.
Ways to curtail escalating exports of ivory from the European Union to
and elsewhere are the subject of discussions at
inter-governmental meetings in Brussels
month and next. Geneva
Meanwhile, conservationists point out that any legal loopholes will allow poached ivory to be laundered into the ‘legal’ trade and thus fuel the continued killing.
“Weak European laws on ivory trading are a clear and present danger to Africa’s elephants, and a gift to poachers and smugglers who feed almost limitless demand for ivory in
East Asia”, says Daniela Freyer of Pro Wildlife.
Mary Rice, of the Environmental Investigation Agency, added: “We are calling on EU countries to halt all ivory trade within, to and from the EU, and strengthen enforcement. This includes measures to destroy their stockpiled ivory – both carvings and raw tusks - irrespective of its source and alleged age. We will only be able to end the elephant poaching crisis when the trade fuelling it is banned and demand curbed.”
administration has announced a federal ban - with very narrow exemptions - by
prohibiting all imports and exports and
resales of ivory by auction houses and other dealers. United States
An academic study a few years ago revealed that of 626 ivory items seen for sale in
Lisbon, the most numerous were antique figurines from
Europe and Asia, followed by busts and figurines carved in the 1970s from Angola, and antique crucifixes from India, Europe and . Sri Lanka
Nearly all the items seen during the study were made before the ban introduced by the EU Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1989.
Some, however, were being sold illegally because Portuguese law requires that ivory pieces to be registered. Since 2004, privately owned ivory is required to be registered as well, but most has not been recorded.
Portugal already has at least 20 tonnes of registered tusks and the Portuguese authorities intercept several hundred pieces of ivory (both raw and worked) coming into the country illegally each year, almost all from Africa, especially Angola, Mozambique and Senegal.
Despite this, much ivory is thought to be successfully smuggled into
, often hand-carried
through the airports. Another source of ivory is the Internet, which enables
new ivory items to be smuggled in by post or courier service. Nearly all of it
is for personal ownership rather than
for sale. Portugal
In February this year, Prince William reportedly told zoologist Jane Goodall that he would “like to see all the ivory owned by
destroyed.” He was duly rebuked by his father, Prince Charles. Buckingham
Apparently Charles thought his son’s remark was somewhat naive and stupid as there is a difference between supporting action against illegal dealing and
retaining an important historical collection of artefacts. Buckingham Palace
The royal spat was an example of the kind of heated feelings associated with ivory and the killing of elephants.
The same week as the
Algarve fair, Spain’s King Juan Carlos announced his intention
to abdicate in favour of his son, Crown Prince Felipe, following much
irritation expressed by Spaniards since the king’s hunting trip to in
2012. The trip, which was supposed to be completely secret, resulted in the
king falling and breaking a hip after being photographed posing with a rifle
over his shoulder in front of a dead elephant. Botswana
Wealthy Chinese buyers are reportedly fostering a boom with the illegal trafficking of ivory from
Tanzania and Kenya north to Cairo
where backroom markets are busy, even though selling ivory in is against the law. Ivory
bought in Egypt Cairo is said to fetch up to ten times
the price in . China
The auctioneer of the
Algarve company selling
the carved pieces at the
fair assured us that, “the owner of
the ivory items provided the valid
certificates to accompany the pieces. These certificates were on hand and
available for perusal..... we act as agents for our clients and endeavor to
work to the rules and regulations governing the sale of all items presented for
A man visiting the fair who expressed disapproval about the pieces, said later that the woman looking after the exhibits dismissed his objection with a shrug of the shoulders.
The visitor who wondered to herself about the ethics of dealing in even validated ivory, remarked afterwards: “Having visited an elephant sanctuary in
I can tell you that
elephants are amazingly elegant and surprisingly quiet and gentle creatures for
their size. All of them had been rescued from botched poaching attempts, some
with missing tusks and damaged limbs. South Africa
“An outstretched handful of peanuts were gratefully hoovered up by a tiny baby while an older elephant presented a curled up trunk, an adapted trick because it had been caught in a poacher’s trap.”
What she found especially repugnant at the fair was that the carved ivory pieces, “relics of animal abuse,” were on display for all to see close to stands promoting rescue centres, services and suppliers concerned with the well-being of domestics animals.
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