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Mar 20, 2015 11:56 AM

Ethiopian govt burn 6.1 tons of ivory to discourage poaching

The Associated Press

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) Black smoke billowed into the air of the Ethiopian capital Friday as 6.1 tons of illegal elephant tusks, ivory trinkets, carvings and various forms of jewelry went up in flames on a wooden pyre. Government officials had started the blaze to discourage poaching and the ivory trade.

Ethiopia becomes the second African country this year to burn its ivory stockpile as global efforts increase for the conservation of elephants, a vulnerable species whose numbers are quickly dwindling as they are killed for their ivory tusks.

Dawud Mome, Director General of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Conservation Authority, said the ivory being burnt was confiscated from various people in the last 20 years. Most of the ivory was being smuggled through Ethiopia to a third country, he says.

"Poaching is increasingly becoming a major concern in our country," he said, adding that the contraband was seized in collaboration with local police and Interpol.

Since 2010, 734 people have been arrested for connections with the illegal ivory trade, the majority of them Chinese nationals passing through Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, the African Wildlife Foundation said in a statement.

Abate Tulu, an official from Ethiopia's wildlife authority, said the country's elephant population was more than 15,000 in the 1970s but the poaching scourge in the eighties' decimated the herds. Ethiopia currently has only 1,900 elephants and the wildlife authority says the poaching threat persists.

Kenya burnt 15 tons ivory recovered from poachers and smuggler earlier this month. Gabon, China, U.S. among others have also destroyed their ivory stockpiles in the past years, said Kenyan elephant expert Patrick Omondi.

Save The Elephants said last year that 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012. Last month, China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory threatens the existence of Africa's elephants.


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