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Lawmaker asks: Why destroy seized elephant tusks at all?

/ 01:19 AM June 18, 2013

Why destroy something that can be very useful?

This is the contention of Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe who wants the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reconsider its decision to destroy confiscated elephant tusks worth P420 million, saying the ivory tusks should be preserved and used for educational purposes.

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Batocabe said that saving the tusks would give students and the public an opportunity to study the rare items up close.

“Our children might not be able to see and touch an ivory tusk their whole lives, much less a live elephant. We have ivory tusks lying around the DENR premises. Why destroy them when they could teach so much to future generations?” Batocabe said in a statement.

The DENR is scheduled to crush and pulverize the five tons of elephant tusks with a road roller on June 21.

Earlier, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that destroying the ivory tusks that had been brought into the country illegally was intended to send the message that the Philippines does not tolerate the illegal wildlife trade.

Adherence to convention

This is in line with the country’s adherence to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of flora and fauna, which prohibits the ivory trade to stem the decimation of the elephant population in Africa.

Batocabe, vice chairman of the House committee on environment and natural resources, said the ivory tusks could be donated to schools, museums and nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

They could be used to teach the public about caring for endangered animals and about the dangers of the ivory trade to the welfare of these animals, he said.

“Schools and NGOs would have good use for them to teach the public, especially the young generations, why the ivory trade is banned,” he said.

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Stronger campaign

“Our museums and NGOs would be able to use these tusks to strengthen the world campaign against the international ivory trade,” he added.

According to the lawmaker, ivory tusks should not be likened to other contraband such as illegal drugs or pirated CDs, since the latter two bring no benefit to the public and could not be used for educational purposes.

“These are priceless treasures that will be put to waste if we destroy them,” he said.

The DENR earlier planned to set some tusks on fire in a “ceremonial burning” but this plan was dropped after clean air advocates protested that it could send the wrong message to the public—that open burning was acceptable.

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TAGS: elephant tusks, illegal trade, lawmaker, Philippines, Rodel Batocabe, wildlife trade
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