by Karen Mehall Phillips - Wednesday, April 20, 2016
According to the Associated Press, authorities in Cameroon burned 2,000 poached elephant tusks and other ivory goods near the capitol yesterday in what is likely the largest burning of poached wildlife goods in African history. Joining Cameroonian officials to light the match was America's own U.N. ambassador, Samantha Powers. Yet while they touted the ceremony as being symbolic of winning the war against illegal smuggling of animal products, central Africa's forest elephant population has steadily declined, dropping by two-thirds between 2002-2012.
"The burning sends a clear message, Powers said, "that the only place ivory belongs and the only value ivory has is on elephants."
Cameroonian officials claim the confiscated tusks alone weighed as much as 3.5 tons and that merchandise was worth millions of dollars. As noted in the article, ivory-burning ceremonies cause some to wonder why the valuable tusks aren't reused in some capacity given that the elephants were already poached. Nevertheless, the United States conducted it's own ivory-destruction ceremonies in 2013 and 2015.
Philip Ngole Ngwese, Cameroon's minister of forestry and wildlife, said the seized tusks and ivory were now "beyond reach." He also described the human costs of poaching, mourning several guides and park rangers who have been killed in recent years.
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