Quantcast

Sri Lanka Is First Country in the World to Apologize for Its Role in Illegal Ivory Trade

Sri Lanka became the fifteenth country today to crush and burn its ivory stockpile and the first to formally apologize for its role in the illegal ivory trade.

“We have to apologize,” the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero, the Buddhist priest who led the service, told National Geographic. “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.”

The ivory, comprised of 359 tusks and weighing 1.5 tons, is the country's entire stockpile. Worth an estimated $3 million, the tusks were seized by customs authorities in May 2012 en route from Kenya to Dubai. However, DNA testing revealed that the tusks came from Tanzania.

The tusks were originally going to be donated to the Sri Dalada Maligawa Buddhist Temple, but the government changed its plans amid public outcry. According to National Geographic, critics of the plan feared the tusks would re-enter the black market and that by handing them over to a third party, the government would violate the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the global wildlife trade.

Sri Lanka now joins Gabon, the Philippines, the U.S., China, France, Chad, Belgium, Hong Kong, Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Thailand, who have all destroyed stockpiles of ivory in the last four years.

The ceremony included two minutes of silence, followed by words from Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife Gamini Jayawickremea Perera, Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake and CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon.

At today's ceremony, Scanlon said:

I would like to express my most sincere thanks to H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena for inviting me to witness the destruction of 359 pieces of confiscated African elephant ivory weighing 1,529 kilograms here in Colombo today.

Over the past 24 months we have seen countries within Africa, East and South East Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America destroy stockpiles of illegally traded elephant ivory that has been seized and confiscated.

Today’s event is the first destruction of confiscated ivory in South Asia and it is the first time that such an event has included a religious ceremony to honor the elephants that were killed, which makes it a truly unique and remarkable event.

The Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero performed a transfer of merits, "a Buddhist ritual often done for departed relatives to honor them and help them reach a better place in their next life," National Geographic explained.

“Buddhism and other religions don’t tolerate killing and cruelty to elephants,” Minister Perera said. “We believe in rebirth, even of elephants or household pets. It’s traditional to conduct religious rights for dead humans as well as animals."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

300 Sea Turtles Found Dead on Indian Beach

There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the Ocean by 2050

Richard Branson Speaks Out Against Rhino Horn Trade

Huge Victory for Elephants: Hong Kong Bans Ivory Trade

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New pine trees grow from the forest floor along the North Fork of the Flathead River on the western boundary of Glacier National Park on Sept. 16, 2019 near West Glacier, Montana. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

By Alex Kirby

New forests are an apparently promising way to tackle global heating: the trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities. But there's a snag, because permanently lower river flows can be an unintended consequence.

Read More
Household actions lead to changes in collective behavior and are an essential part of social movements. Pixabay / Pexels

By Greg McDermid, Joule A Bergerson, Sheri Madigan

Hidden among all of the troubling environmental headlines from 2019 — and let's face it, there were plenty — was one encouraging sign: the world is waking up to the reality of climate change.

So now what?

Read More
Sponsored
Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More