‘The only value ivory has is on a living elephant,’ said Karen Pomeranz as she handed in six 20-year-old napkin rings to be crushed. ‘I was never comfortable owning ivory items. I’m glad they’re gone.’
She was one of many who added their ivory possessions to 100kg of illegal ivory donated by the government to be crushed in Melbourne, Australia, on World Wildlife Day last Saturday. Items donated included bangles, earrings, necklaces, rings, little carvings and ornaments, chess pieces, some ivory handled cutlery and several bangles suspected to be rhinoceros horn.
In support of the crush, Federal MP Jason Wood called for a ban on the ivory trade. Australia’s market, he said, was ‘unregulated, with no requirements of evidence of a product’s origin, import history or age.
‘I believe that, as a nation, we need to completely close Australia’s market for ivory and rhino horn. That’s why I’m calling for an Australian trade ban which prohibits the domestic commercial trading of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.’
The former Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, said destroying ivory and rhinoceros horn products sent ‘a powerful signal that trade in these items is abhorrent and must stop if elephant and rhino species are to survive. The illicit trade is fuelling corruption and conflict, wrecking lives and deepening poverty and inequality.’
The event follows China’s closure of its ivory trade and Hong Kong’s decisionto follow suit. Between 2010 and 2016Australian authorities seized around 430 items suspected to contain elephant and rhinoceros parts. However no prosecutions or fines under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act relating to these confiscations have been reported.
Among high profile Australian and international celebrities showing support for the event and for calls to end the ivory and rhino horn trade were fashion designer Collette Dinnigan, ethical philosopher Peter Singer, the president of the Born Free Foundation, Will Travers and celebrated Australian actor Asher Keddie.
‘Obeying the old rules is no longer good enough for elephants and rhinos,’ said Singer. ‘The animals need more from us to ensure their survival. [We need to] think of them as individuals with lives of their own to live and choose not to buy their body parts.’
Lending his support to the crush, Travers said he had ‘stood beside the bodies of poached elephants and rhinos. Masses of stinking, rotting flesh staining the wild African earth. Wasted lives.
‘No one needs ivory or rhino horn, whether they are in Australia or any other country – only those who want to make a killing. Lives or elephants and rhinos are priceless. Their death robs us all. End it now.’
Donalea Patman, founder of For the Love of Wildlife and host of Melbourne Crush, said she hoped the event would persuade the Australian government to ban the domestic trade of ivory and rhinoceros horn.
‘The trade is banned internationally but if we’re to really stop poachers and traffickers we need to prohibit commercial trading inside Australia,’ she said.