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France made history on Thursday when it became the first European country to publicly destroy three tons of seized illegal ivory as part of a global fight against elephant poaching. The hundreds of “blood ivory” tusks, which were estimated at $1.4 million, were pulverized into dust in front of a public crowd at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. France’s move to destroy its ivory stockpile follows similar recent symbolic destructions by countries such as the United States and China.

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The African elephant population has plummeted to less than half a million due to the thousands of elephants slaughtered by poachers every year. According to recent studies, if current poaching levels continue at the same rate, Africa could risk losing 20 per cent of its elephant population in the next decade. Environmental activists have urged countries to publicly destroy their ivory stockpiles as a means to deter elephant poaching and ivory trafficking.

“With this destruction today…France is sending an unequivocal message to poachers, traffickers and consumers of illicit wildlife products,” said French Environment Minister Philippe Martin, according to the AFP. Though the pulverization of ivory demonstrates a hardline government stance against the wildlife crime, critics say the move may actually feed the criminal appetite for ivory, as the reduction in ivory supplies drives up the black market price and demand.

Via New York Times

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