China has destroyed more than six tonnes of illegal ivory amid growing concerns over elephant poaching.
Forestry officials in the southern city of Donngguan organised the destruction on Monday, in the first such large-scale public event in China.
Wildlife groups said the event illustrated growing concern over the black market trade by authorities in the world’s biggest market for elephant tusks.
Ivory destruction in countries along the trade chain “clearly tells consumers everywhere that ivory buying is unethical and wrong,” Azzedine Downs, CEO of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said.
The IFAW said the destruction was a powerful symbolic act that showed 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.”
IFAW estimates that more than 35,000 elephants were killed last year by ivory poachers.
Ivory can fetch up to $2,000 per kilogramme on the black market, earning it the nickname “white gold.”
Demand is fuelled by rapid growth in China, now the world’s second biggest economy, which has created a vast middle class with the spending power to buy ivory carvings regarded as status symbols.
Officials said the 6.1 tonnes of ivory that had been destroyed was just a portion of the illegal ivory held by China, though they would not disclose the size of the country’s total stockpile.
The destroyed ivory came from shipments from Africa intercepted by customs officers as well as from carving factories and shops in China.
China is following other countries that have destroyed their ivory stocks in the past year.