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Philippines destroys five tonnes of elephant tusks

Manila, June 21 - The Philippine government crushed five tonnes of elephant tusks with road rollers Friday to show the country's support for global campaign against illegal ivory trading.

The destroyed elephant tusks, worth of 420 million pesos (roughly $10 million) were smuggled into the Philippines in eight separate shipments during the 1996-2009 period, reported Xinhua.

Based on the shipping documents, the items came from Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda.

At a ceremony held in the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, part of the Metro Manila capital region, the seized elephant tusks were crushed by road rollers. They will then be pulverized and buried for composting.

Philippine Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Ramon Paje said: "This act is a strong statement to the rest of the world that the Philippines is serious and will not tolerate illegal wildlife trade."

Paje said that the so-called "white gold" had to be destroyed to curtail the risk that it will be stolen and sold on the black market.

The Philippines is a signatory to the 1989 Geneva-based Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which bans the ivory trade as a cause of the massive decline in elephant populations in Africa. Under the CITES, elephants are highly endangered and their international trade declared illegal. The demand for ivory on elephant tusks has caused the slaughter of the animals.

The Philippines was included, at the CITES meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand, last March, as one of eight countries of priority of concerns as regard to illegal ivory trade, particularly its role as a trade route and transit country for elephant tusks.

Statistics show that around 25,000 elephants are being killed annually for their ivory. (IANS)