Posts Tagged With: Philippines

What to do with all that ivory and horn…

In light of the global demise of elephants and rhinos, many countries have made a symbolic gesture of commitment by destroying their ivory stockpiles.

China, the United States, Kenya, France, the Philippines, Gabon and Hong Kong have all taken part.

While some see this as a celebratory gesture, it is contested by others.

Black rhinoceros and Africa elephant, Africa

photo: John Downer/WWF

The price tag for a kilo of ivory on the black market is worth over $1800 usd , which makes your average elephant worth about $18,000. While a kilo of rhino horn can fetch $65,000 usd, making the average rhino worth $130,000.

Imagine how much one country’s stockpile may be worth? When the US destroyed it’s 6 ton stockpile, it was like decimating approximately $9,800,000 usd. Could that money have been sold to China, raising money for conservation? Or would it have simply fueled demand, bringing a quicker end to our imperiled elephants?

To destroy:

*Ivory and horn left intact has the good chance of finding its way back onto the market, perpetuating the demand and adding to the poaching.
*It sends a powerful statement to the world that it is NOT a commodity. There is no worth.
*It also sends the message that the country will not tolerate the trade.
*To store ivory and horn, it is a security burden to most countries.

ivory crushed in denver by steel

Ivory destroyed by a steel rock crusher in Denver, Colorado. photo: Alex Hofford

To keep:

*Saving horns and ivory allows records to be kept on genetics, both for historical purposes as well as for DNA evidence used in court cases.
*If legalization occurs, it can be sold to raise money for conservation.
*It can be used to train wildlife sniffer dogs in airports to help control trafficking.
*In general, it is argued destruction of ivory makes it more scarce, spiking the demand

afp rhino horn stockpile

It’s no secret South Africa is pushing for legal trade in rhino horn. Their current stockpile stands at over 18 tons. photo” AFP


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From Tusks to Trinkets

Look at your watch. An elephant was just slaughtered for his tusks. In 15 minutes, another one will die. This is the current rate of poaching, this IS the bleak reality. THIS is why the world is starting to pay attention.

15 min


Sept 9, 2013: USA announces it will be destroying its 6-ton stockpile of illegal ivory it has collected over the last 25 years.

June 21, 2013: Philippines destroyed it’s 5-ton stockpile of elephant ivory.

2011: Kenya burned 5-tons, and another 12-tons in 1989.

1992: Zambia burned 9.5 tons.

Who’s next?  It’s a trend that needs to continue. If the elephants are to be saved, a strong message has to be sent to would-be poachers, collectors, traders….WE WILL NOT TOLERATE KILLING OF OUR WILDLIFE.

Is it too much to hope for Hong Kong, Thailand, and China to do the same?

How about South Africa? Or Tanzania?

Tanzania is home to the largest ivory stockpile in the world, and so far shows no intention of giving up its collection.  In Feb 2013, National Geographic visited the warehouse where the $50 million ivory is stored. The government argues it could be sold to assist conservation efforts and bring money to what is one of the poorest nations. Yet, they spend nearly $75,000 a year to secure it.

Destroying the stockpile would remove that cost, eliminate opportunity for corruption and theft, as well as showing a commitment to the trade ban.


Ivory is used to make trinkets, carvings; frivolous things. (Trading LIFE for a THING…a terrible habit of humanity today.) Part of the desire for it, is it’s strength.

It is precisely this durability that makes it difficult to destroy. Burning it only works if it is at a high temperature for a long period of time; otherwise it is only charred, while the inside is left intact. In fact, this is exactly how sellers of the ivory used to proof it was the real thing by passing a lighter or match over it, demonstrating it wouldn’t burn.

This means some of the tusks that were previously burned could have been recovered and made it back into the black market.

crushing ivory

Even crushing it is difficult. After much fanfare and a public display including a road roller in the Philippines, it was discovered they still needed to hammer the fragments with a back-hoe scoop, then incinerate them in an animal crematorium.

Let’s face it, tusks were meant for elephants. Not as necklaces or piano keys, and certainly unfathomable to think about how to destroy them.

To help bring awareness to the elephants, please donate if you can to the Times Square Billboard. The Elephant in Times Square. Let’s shout it to the rooftops, and tell the world what is happening to our majestic elephants.

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Mixed Messages on Worldwide Wildlife Trafficking

TOP 5  Illegal Activities in the World:

2)Human Trafficking
5)Wildlife Trafficking

Finally someone has brought serious attention to the public eye on the lucrative illegal wildlife trade, the 5th biggest avenue of corruption and criminal activity in the world. Upon his visit to parts of Africa, President Obama announced his wildlife initiative plan.


Obama’s new campaign to fight wildlife trafficking includes an executive order, $10 million in funding, a task force and a presidential advisoryobama wildlife init council. The campaign will focus on helping affected countries establish and enforce better trafficking laws;, supporting regional cooperation; training their police and rangers; and beefing up their law enforcement and intelligence-gathering capacities. It will also use a new “Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program” to offer bounties for poachers and push for more modern technologies to identify and capture them.

The issue has also been presented with China in an effort to address the demand side of the trade in animal parts, primarily rhino and elephant. Both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have discussed this with them.


It means the U.S is publicly going on record to show no tolerance for the continued decimation of  animals on our planet, as well as putting emphasis on the seriousness of the criminal syndicate. Now valued between $7 billion to $10 billion a year, the lucrative trade funds many  corrupt operations i.e. drugs, human trafficking, weapons, and gang activity.

The U.S is  second only to China in partaking in the black market of wildlife trade. This admittance and commitment will step up regulations here, as well as setting the bar for the rest of the world.

The President stated “The survival of protected wildlife species … has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security.”

The Philippines Contribution

In a monumental move to battle the illegal wildlife trade, the Philippines were the first Asian country to publicly destroy it’s stockpile of ivory. On Friday it started the destruction of 5 tons of seized ivory.A road roller crushes smuggled elephant tusks at the Parks and Wildlife center in Quezon City

Ramon Paje, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “The Philippines will not be a party to the massacre and we refuse to be a conduit to this cycle of killing,”

Although on the surface, they are sending a strong message, according to DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, there are still 8 tons unaccounted for. There is currently an investigation to determine its whereabouts.

What about South Africa?

Shortly after Obama’s’ visit, South Africa announced plans for a one-time selling of its stockpile of ivory. Ironic this should come on the heels of the President’s visit. The debate on legal horn trade rages on, but the timing of this decision seems to undermine the seriousness and conviction of the statement from the U.S.

With the U.S. and even the Philippines stepping up,  it seems momentum is on the side of wildlife. So why wouldn’t S.A. simply destroy theirs as well?

History has proven legal trade does NOT work. In 2008 the ban was lifted on ivory, which opened the flood gates and escalated elephant poaching , which they are still being massacred for.  Repeating this for the rhino would be the same disaster.

no to trade

Please let your voice be heard.  South Africa’s move toward petitioning CITES to legalize the rhino horn trade will decimate the species..    

Please write! #-SayNoToRhinoHornTrade

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Mali: a Symbol of Both Cruelty and Hope

Mali.  She is the lonely elephant who has spent every day for 35 years in a concrete enclosure at the Manila Zoo. (See previous: Suffering  from severe foot problems, an effect of the constant concrete beneath her, and severe depression, she has a new home available. There has been a place secured for her at a sanctuary in Thailand. So what IS the holdup?mali the ele

Veterinary and wildlife experts have assessed her condition and deemed it necessary and appropriate for her move. Foot problems for elephants is the leading cause for their death in captivity. In addition she exhibits signs of severe stress and mental suffering from her isolation.

The campaign to free Mali has been going on for sometime now. It has picked up momentum, with both celebrities and average citizens alike joining the movement. It seems purely political at this point. The Zoo and Filipino government seem to be digging in their heels by constantly finding ways to stall the move.

Mali’s suffering has brought much-needed attention to the fragile condition of elephants in captivity, and will hopefully set precedence for the lives of the many others who are in the same situation as this gentle soul.

Mali’s Life for the last 35 years:

Please help Mali and other elephants. Keep the pressure on.


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Elephants are extremely social creatures. They form groups, and sometimes join up with other herds. The females stay together, raising each others young and communicate constantly with one another. Female asian elephants are never alone in the wild.

Mali reaching out for companionship.

Mali reaching out for companionship.

Manilla Zoo, Philippines  Mali is the only Asian Elephant in the zoo. In fact she is the only elephant in captivity in the Philippines. The 38-year-old gentle giant has been an occupant of the zoo since she was taken from her mother at the age of 3,  spending all of her life in a concrete enclosure.

After capturing the attention of concerned citizens, an animal rights group was contacted and Dr. Mel Richardson, a veterinarian and expert on elephants,  was sent to evaluate Mali. His findings expressed concerns both for her physical and mental health.

Mali’s feet (which have only known the feel of concrete) are showing ailments including cracked nails, overgrown cuticles, and cracked pads. Such foot problems are the leading cause of death in captive elephants. The zoos veterinarians admit they do not have the means to properly care for her feet.

Perhaps even more importantly, Dr. Richardson expressed extreme concern for her profound loneliness. ” Mali’s social and psychological needs are being neglected at the Manila Zoo. Even the best intentions … cannot replace these needs, which can only be met by the companionship of other elephants.” He concludes, “In my experience, even elephants who have been alone for more than 20 years integrate well with other elephants when moved to a sanctuary.”

Mali's "home" for the last 30 years.

Mali’s “home” for the last 30 years.

There is a place available for Mali at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. She could feel the grass beneath her tired feet, wrap her trunk around other trunks, greeting other elephants for the first time in her life. After a lifetime of solitary confinement, isn’t it time she lived as she was meant to?

There has been an outpouring of support for this magnificent lady. Everyone from PETA to Dame Daphne Sheldrick has lent a voice to the effort to move her. Yet the officials of the Manilla Zoo have resisted, saying she is home and they are her family.

There is a place available for Mali at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.  After a lifetime of solitary confinement, Mali could finally feel the grass beneath her feet, wrap her trunk around other trunks, and greet a family for the first time in her life. Please join in the fight to give Mali the life she deserves.  Go to Free Mali on facebook.

Mali holding tail

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Ivory Honors God

Slaughtered elephant family

Slaughtered elephant family

A HUNDRED RAIDERS ON HORSEBACK CHARGED OUT OF CHAD INTO CAMEROON’S BOUBA NDJIDAH NATIONAL PARK, SLAUGHTERING HUNDREDS OF ELEPHANTS—entire families. Carrying AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, they dispatched the elephants with a military precision. And then some stopped to pray to Allah. Seen from the ground, each of the bloated elephant carcasses is a monument to human greed.  From the air the scattered bodies present a senseless crime scene—you can see which animals fled, which mothers tried to protect their young, how one terrified herd of 50 went down together, the latest of the tens of thousands of elephants killed across Africa each year.  (National Geographic)

Elephant poaching is at a record high, unfortunately not a surprise. But what IS surprising is what is fueling this demand;  ivory to be carved for religious art pieces.  Crucifixes, amulets, prayer beads, buddhas-all made from elephant tusks.


Ivory crucifix

Roman catechism states “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”In Vatican city, you can buy ivory crucifixes blessed by a priest. Want a baby Jesus or a patron saint? They’ve got those too. Last year Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman gave Pope Benedict XVI an ivory-and-gold thurible. In 2007 an ivory Santo Niño was given to Pope Benedict XVI.  For Christmas in 1987 President Ronald Reagan was presented with  an Ivory Madonna by Pope John Paul II.

The CITES treaty (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), was adopted as a way to globally safeguard our wildlife.  Conveniently, the Vatican has NOT signed the treaty, so it’s not subject to the Ivory ban.

In the Philippines, Ivory is synonymous with religion. The very word ivory also means a religious statue. The priests say smuggling elephant ivory is an act of devotion, part of ones sacrifice to the Santo Nino (holy child).

Worried about getting an item back to the US? They will gladly and openly give you advice how to smuggle it back into the US.  According to Monsignor Garcia in the Philippines “Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it”. “So it looks shitty with blood. This is how it is done.”

ele monk

Kruba Dharmamuni, the “Elephant Monk”, keeps Asian elephants at his temple in Thailand, where he’s been accused of starving an elephant to use her ivory for amulets. © Brent Stirton/National Geographic

This is not an issue specific to Catholicism. The Buddhist monks make thousands of dollars from amulets of ivory sold in temple gift shops. The elephant is revered in Buddhism, as in all of Thailand. To be respectful of the Buddha it is believed  one should use precious material; if not ivory then gold. But ivory is thought to be more precious.

Muslims use ivory for prayer beads,  Christians make Coptic crosses and other items. The Philippines, Thailand, China, and Egypt are all involved in the bloodshed.

The global religious market is the driving force behind the massive slaughter of the elephants. Blinded to the blood dripping off their crucifixes, the elephant continues to die in order to “honor God”.

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