By: CHIQUI PEREZ This Asian country sets a precedent by destroying over 300 tusks, offering funeral rites to elephants, and formally apologizing for being part of the illegal ivory trade, making it the first country to do so.
The public ceremony held at the Galle Face promenade in Colombo, in the country of Sri Lanka, was also the first of its kind. The symbolic crushing of these tusks—so that they can no longer be of value in the black market—was preceded by the prayers of Sri Lankan monks, accompanied by Muslim, Hindu, and Christian leaders in quiet solemnity.
This is also the first multi-country legal effort in tracing the origin of the tusks, reports the Wall Street Journal.
A single shipment of 359 tusks worth $3 million were confiscated on May 2012 at the Colombo Port by the Sri Lankan government under the international anti-smuggling law. The tusks, called “blood ivory” by activists because of the inhumane methods of harvest, were in transit from Kenya to Dubai. DNA tests prove that these tusks originated from Tanzania.
These tusks were originally planned to be delivered to different Buddhist temples around the island by the previous Sri Lankan government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa. The plan was abandoned amidst the outcry of activist and environmentalist groups. Ivory is considered symbols of high status and religious objects. “Ivory Worship” only further fuels the poaching of elephants.
However, the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero, one of the monks who led the service, shares a resonating message of compassion and respect for all life.
“We have to apologize. Those elephants were victimized by the cruelty of certain people. But all of human society is responsible. We destroyed those innocent lives to take those tusks. We have to ask for pardon from them.”
Minister Perera added, “Buddhism and other religions don’t tolerate killing and cruelty to elephants. We believe in rebirth, even of elephants or household pets. It’s traditional to conduct religious rights for dead humans as well as animals.”
According to the Quartz, 179 countries have already banned the ivory international trade in 1990 under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Yet, the black market continues to flourish.
The current Sri Lankan government under Maithripala Sirisena is adamant in their stance against this illicit trade. According to John Scanlon, CITES’ secretary general, Sri Lankan efforts to intercept this trade “is helping to combat these serious crimes and thereby protect precious wildlife assets in Africa and elsewhere.”
EcoWatch relays that Sri Lanka is now one of the countries along with Gabon, the Philippines, the U.S., China, France, Chad, Belgium, Hong Kong, Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Thailand to publicly destroy a stockpile of poached ivory in the last four years.
The Galle Face ceremonies were concluded when the tusks, after seven hours of splintering, were transported under heavy security to an industrial incinerator. The ashes would then be be scattered into the Indian Ocean.
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