White gold puts Kerala in dilemma

State yet to decide on burning the 10-ton ivory stock

Thiruvananthapuram: The Project Elephant director R.K. Srivastava had recently given a direction to all states to publicly burn the ivory stockpiles in their possession. Karnataka, which has the largest stockpile of ivory in the country, has decided to. However Kerala, which too sits on a large and mounting pile of tusks, continues to be clueless about what is to be done with its cache of 'white gold'.

“We are yet to take a call,” said head of forest force Brandson S Corrie. “There are two views; one says ivory is heritage material and therefore should be preserved for posterity but the other view is that we should burn them,” Mr Corrie said.

By refusing to burn its 'white gold', which according to official estimates is nearly 10,000 kg or approximately 10 tons, it is felt that the State government has left things tantalizingly attractive for ivory poachers. It was former chief wildlife warden, V Gopinathan, who had first mooted the burning of the tusks arguing that the stock was vulnerable to the designs of ivory smugglers.

“The stockpile of ivory with the Department with its limited infrastructure facilities for keeping them safe is an open invitation for prospective smugglers and thieves,” Mr Gopinathan had said. Ivory is valueless, except in the black market. Trade in ivory was banned in 1991 through an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. But ivory is so coveted that one kilogram could fetch more than Rs 1 L in the underground market.

State Animal Welfare Board member M N Jayachandran said that the mountain of tusks should be burnt at the earliest. “The presence of such a huge collection is actually creating a demand. For smuggler, this is huge potential,” Mr Jayachandran said. “Burning ivory tusks is the international norm. Even African countries burn their stock,” he added.

Showcasing the ivory in a museum, according to animal rights activist, is ridiculous. “Since all tusks look more or less alike, it is not an ideal material for museums that thrive on variety,” he said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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