DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — With a rock crusher rattling and Dubai's gleaming skyscrapers in the distance, the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday pulverized a mound of contraband elephant tusks and ivory carvings confiscated in the Gulf country to send a message against poaching and ivory trafficking.
The UAE is not a major destination for smuggled ivory, but it is a key crossroads for the trade because of extensive air and sea links to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Mideast. The commercial hub of Dubai is home to the Middle East's largest seaport and busiest airport.
Workers used a construction digger to hoist what officials said was more than 10 metric tons, or about 11 U.S. tons, of ivory into the crusher at a landfill where the powder will be buried.
Elsayed Ahmad A. Mohamed, regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a Massachusetts-based group involved in the ivory crush, said the bulk of the ivory was transiting the country on its way to the Far East.
IFAW estimates that 25,000 to 50,000 elephants are killed for their tusks each year. Most of it is destined for China and other Asian markets.
"The aim behind this is to send a message around the world that ivory is worth nothing," Mohamed said. "Elephants have value."
For traffickers, however, the trade remains lucrative.
The Born Free Foundation, a British wildlife charity, says a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of ivory sells for $2,100 on the wholesale market in China, with retail prices much higher.
In November 2013, American officials crushed more than 6 tons (6.6 U.S. tons) of confiscated ivory tusks, carvings and jewelry seized after a global ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory went into effect in 1989.
Other countries, including Belgium, Britain, China and France, have held similar ivory crushes to deter smugglers who kill elephants for their tusks and to raise awareness about the illegal trade.
According to IFAW, UAE seized 474 ivory tusks at Dubai's Jebel Ali port in 2012 and 2013, and more than 300 pieces of ivory at Dubai International Airport last year.
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