The WWF issued the following statement regarding China’s destruction of ivory: The world’s biggest consumer of trafficked ivory – most of which comes from elephants illegally killed in Africa – destroyed more than 6 metric tons of seized elephant ivory today.

This move is a hopeful signal that China is firmly behind international action to stop rampant elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade. China has previously indicated it is prepared to clamp down hard on the illegal ivory trade.

The ivory destruction takes place just weeks after eight Chinese citizens were convicted given sentences of 3 to 15 years imprisonment for smuggling a total of 3.2 tons of ivory.

Attending the ivory crushing ceremony were Chinese government officials, as well as a variety of international observers including from the United States government, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the United Nations Environment Programme, and international non-governmental organizations including WWF and TRAFFIC.

‘China’s gesture is a solemn commitment by the government to cleanse the Chinese ivory market and to guarantee the survival of Africa’s elephants,’ said Fan Zhiyong, head of WWF-China’s Species Programme. ‘WWF believes that destroying seized ivory is a signal of the government’s commitment to enhance law enforcement against illegal ivory trade.’

China has a legal ivory market of items that pre-date the 1989 international ivory trade ban and a CITES sanctioned ‘one-off’ ivory sale with four African countries in 2008. But under rules of the CITES, seized ivory cannot be used for commercial purposes.

In the past, Kenya, Gabon, the Philippines and the United States all destroyed large amounts of illegal ivory. WWF and TRAFFIC believe that the destruction of illegal ivory should be backed by rigorous documentation, including an independent audit of the ivory slated for destruction, to reduce the potential risk that some of it could leak back into the black market.