DONGGUAN, China — China, the world's biggest consumer of illegal ivory, crushed six tons of tusks and carved ornaments in public on Monday, signaling it would do more to join global efforts to protect African elephants from rampant poaching.
About 25,000 of the estimated 500,000 elephants in Africa are illegally slaughtered each year for their tusks, conservationists say. It is a $10 billion industry that draws in global crime syndicates and African rebel groups, and threatens to wipe out elephants from some parts of the continent within a decade.
Although Chinese authorities have stepped up antitrafficking efforts in recent years, the trade in illegal ivory has continued.
On Monday, workers in overalls fed scores of weighty tusks and hundreds of small, intricately carved objects into crushing machine in front of a crowd of officials, diplomats, conservationists and journalists in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province, a major hub for the ivory trade.
"We also hope this event will raise the public awareness of conservation, and intensify the responsibilities of enforcement agencies," said Zhao Shucong, director of the State Forestry Administration. Zhao acknowledged that ivory smuggling was "still raging" and said China was "in urgent need of sincere collaboration with different countries and international organizations" to support elephant conservation.
In the past year, the rapid decline in the elephant population has brought a new mood of global cooperation, with ivory burning or crushing events taking place in the United States, Tanzania and elsewhere.