1,800 Kilograms of Ivory Destroyed in France

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (ifaw) and French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) organised a large-scale ivory destruction to stem the trade and raise awareness of the trafficking responsible for the deaths of thousands of elephants every year.

In 2015, IFAW launched the ‘I’m surrendering my ivory’ campaign in France to encourage people to hand in ivory items such as tusks, trinkets, or jewellery for destruction. The campaign was a great success, and many people are still looking for places to dispose of their unwanted ivory.

Through this collaboration, law enforcement recognises the importance of responding to private individuals wanting the option of disposing of their ivory objects.

Since 2015, hundreds of pieces of ivory have been received by IFAW, OFB and French customs mainly via surrenders from individuals, but also through seizures. The decision was then made to destroy this stock to ensure that these items could never be reintroduced into the commercial circuit. 

During the most recent destruction on November 28, 2023, 1,800 kilograms (1.8 tonnes) of ivory were destroyed which represents about 180 elephants, whose tusks were coveted for making decorative items. 

“The exponential demand for collecting these objects since the first collection in 2015 demonstrates the real need to offer private individuals a solution to divest themselves of their ivory. Whether out of ethical conviction or because they are unable to sell it legally following the latest changes in regulations,” said Mia Crnojevic-Cherrier, Campaigns Officer at IFAW. 

“The ivory trade remains a major threat to elephant populations. Thousands of elephants are poached every year in response.” The last destruction operation in 2018 destroyed one tonne of ivory, drying up the market and sending a strong message to traffickers.

Today, there are 400,000 elephants left in Africa – a decline of 70% compared to the 1970s (1.3 million individuals), mainly due to poaching. Within a century, elephant populations have fallen by more than 90%. 

Historically, the European Union (EU) has been one of the world’s largest exporters of legal ivory. The persistence of legal domestic markets for ivory in the EU and elsewhere has enabled criminals to launder illegal ivory from poaching. It places the burden of proof of this illegality on the police and has created confusion among consumers as to whether the available ivory is of legal or illegal origin.

In May 2018, over 90 Members of the European Parliament called for a total ban on the import and trade of ivory in the EU. An initial public consultation launched by the European Commission showed that over 90% of the 90,000 people surveyed were in favour of a ban on the trade in ivory in the EU. The UK banned ivory trade in December 2018, effective from June 2022. 

On December 16, 2021, the European Commission revised its regulation, adopting new guidelines, and severely restricting the ivory trade. The new measures are the strongest ever taken by the EU. The new EU guidelines significantly restrict domestic trade in ivory and imports and re-exports of raw and worked ivory. There are only a few exceptions for antiques and specific musical instruments.

IFAW France is also committed to planting one tree in Zimbabwe for every kilo of ivory received to help restore the habitat of elephants, the destruction of which is one of the leading causes of the ongoing erosion of biodiversity.

The destruction operation is carried out with the support of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, the Command for the Environment and Health (CESAN), the Ministry of Justice and IUCN France. French Customs also involved its stock of ivory in this operation.

In Australia, following recommendations made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, the former federal government committed to closing the country’s domestic ivory and rhinoceros horn markets in 2019. However, this is still yet to be implemented.

While legal domestic markets anywhere in the world remain open, a green light to continue supplying the demand for ivory is driving elephant poaching across both Africa and Asia, and there are serious concerns that elephants may become extinct within just a few decades.


Banner Image: Sarah Sabry of IFAW loading ivory. Photo: Elisabeth Perotin / © IFAW

February 2024

On 22 March 2017, the first industry briefing between ifaw (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and auctioneers and antique dealers from Australia took place, with the view to ending the auction and antiques trade in rhinoceros horn and ivory. That same year, Leonard Joel introduced a voluntary cessation policy and we are proud to no longer sell these materials.