The Republic of Congo burned 4.7 metric tons of illegal ivory and timber on Wednesday. As the pyre crackled outside the Palais de Congres in Brazzaville, where the government held a four-day conference on wildlife trafficking, onlookers saw, heard, and smelled the message: These materials have no value. What did have value were the elephants and trees the objects represent. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, an estimated 96 elephants die daily for their tusks, and the species is in danger of extinction if the illegal trade of their body parts is not stopped.
So, countries all over the world have been crushing or burning their ivory stockpiles and promising to strengthen wildlife trafficking laws and punishments. A ban of ivory sales in the United States is also in the works, albeit slowly—too slowly.
onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.