The forest department in Karnataka has over 12 tonnes in its custody

As Karnataka mulls burning 12 tonnes of ivory wildlife activists warn of pilferage Tusker found dead (File photo)
news Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 17:42

Wildlife activists have advised the Karnataka government to watch out for pilferage after the forest and wildlife department announced plans to destroy the “white gold” as Kenya did, in order to send a strong message against poaching.

Karnataka has the largest number of elephants in the country and due to rampant poaching, the wildlife department has accumulated 12 tonnes of tusks in a room in Mysuru city called “gandhada kote” which means fortress of sandal. The tusks have been seized from poachers and smugglers, or removed from dead elephants.

Karnataka’s Chief Wildlife Warden WB Hosmat told The News Minute that they were awaiting formal approval from the government to burn the ivory in phases starting October. “We are waiting for government’s approval. Legal issues have been sorted out for tusks seized from smugglers,” said Hosmat.  

Karnataka wildlife conservationist Praveen Bhargav welcomed the government’s decision but cautioned that forest officials should keep a keen watch to ensure that the tusks are not stolen. Karnataka is estimated to have the largest quantity of ivory in India followed by Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha, he said.

“This is the time when there will be pilferage because there would be this mentality that the tusks would any way be burnt. There should be a record of how many tusks have come in and have been burnt. If the department does not maintain records, then there are chances of ivory being smuggled from the forest department itself,” he said.

Hosmat said that burning it in the public will send a strong message to the market for ivory that tusks should have no commercial value. Some tusks will be retained for research purpose. 

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