News Commentary

Wildlife Day: Tusks turned into monument

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A P400-million elephant sculpture made from the ashes of more than four tons of confiscated ivory tusks was unveiled yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

The sculpture will serve as a reminder of the internationally acclaimed action of the government and its support for global efforts against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

The unveiling of the sculpture marked the global celebration of World Wildlife Day.

“The Philippines was the first to have spoken out against illegal wildlife trade. The life-size structure means we will not tolerate it,” Paje said.

The Philippines was the first non-elephant country to destroy a huge stockpile of illegally traded ivory with an estimated value of around P450 million.

Since then, a dozen countries such as China, France, Hong Kong, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the US have followed suit.

He said the country’s war against illegal wildlife trade has been successful and it highlighted the importance of biodiversity.

Paje said the sculpture represents the natural position of a mother African elephant protecting her calf.

“The upper circles representing their faces symbolize the quest for the continuation of life of these creatures. The dark color, contrasting the natural off-white ivory tusk, embodies the Philippines’ support for global efforts against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade,” he said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief said the superimposed tusks, which are almost as high as the pachyderm’s body, represent the beauty of the creatures with their tusks intact.

The sculpture is made of concrete and ashes of the tusks that the authorities burned in June 2013.

It was made by Janus Nuñez, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of the Philippines.

To fight the illegal trade, the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory (POGI) and Illegal Wildlife Trade was formed in 2013.

POGI was tasked to enforce Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

In less than three years, POGI conducted about 96 law enforcement operations; confiscated more than 24,000 wildlife specimens, 500 of which were endangered species, and filed 55 criminal complaints against 196 violators.

Nineteen persons have been convicted for violating RA 9147.

During yesterday’s ceremony, the DENR cited individuals and officials from various agencies and local government units who helped support the agency’s efforts.

About 75 men and women from law enforcement units, concerned agencies and courts were named wildlife law enforcement awardees.

The country’s campaign against the illegal ivory trade was supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

The Philippines is among eight parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wild flora and fauna that have been implicated in the illegal ivory trade, and considered among primary countries to watch for such illegal activity.

In March 2013, the CITES Standing Committee ordered these eight countries and eleven secondary countries to develop national ivory action plans to stop the illegal trade. – With Ted Torres

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