Today China destroyed six tons of ivory from its official stockpile in an effort to discourage the ongoing trade the illicit substance. China is one of the world’s biggest markets for ivory from elephant tusks due to the material’s perceived value as a status symbol and the country’s growing middle class. Even though the Chinese government still has an undisclosed amount of ivory stored away, wildlife groups say the unprecedented move shows growing concern about the black market trade by authorities.

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Authorities displayed the array of ornaments, carvings and tusks to reporters, diplomats and conservationists before they fed the offending items into a pair of crushing machines. Tusks that were too long too long to fit in the machines were cut up by workers with circular saws before being pulverized. The display, which happened in Dongguan, Guangdong province, would appear to be the first of its kind in China.

Ivory can fetch up to $2,000 a kilogram on the black market, which means the stockpile was worth over $10 million. The ornaments and carvings destroyed on Monday originated in Africa, but they were intercepted by customs officers en-route, and from ivory-based business in China.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare said the destruction was a powerful symbolic act that shows that the Chinese government is “concerned about the toll ivory trafficking is taking on elephant populations, as well as the other threats to regional security that arise in connection with wildlife crime.”

Via HuffPost

Images by wZa HKSam Beddoes