Myanmar burns ivory, skins to fight illegal wildlife trade

Smokes and flames billow from burning elephant ivory during a destruction ceremony of confiscated elephant ivory and wildlife parts in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Myanmar destroyed confiscated elephant ivories and various of other wildlife parts in the capital Naypyitaw for public awareness of law enforcement on illegal trade of wild fauna and flora, and their derivatives and promoting international cooperation by delivering Myanmar's great suppression on illegal wildlife crimes. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Authorities in Myanmar on Thursday destroyed an estimated $1.3 million worth of confiscated ivory and other parts of endangered animals, days after a conservation group charged that the country’s ivory exports to China are increasing.

Myanmar’s Natural Resources Ministry said the items destroyed at a burning in the capital, Naypyitaw, included 277 pieces of ivory, 227 bones of elephants and other animals, 1,544 different horns and 25 wildlife skins.

It said the parts were destroyed to raise public awareness about the illegal wildlife trade, to try to deter such activities and to promote international cooperation in suppressing the crime.

A report issued Tuesday by the Kenya-based group Save the Elephants said ivory going to China comes from both poaching within Myanmar as well as pieces originating in Africa.

China, the world’s largest ivory consumer, banned its domestic trade starting this year in what conservationists hope will relieve pressure on Africa’s besieged elephant populations.

However, another conservation organization said earlier this year that rising Chinese demand for products made from elephant skin is also driving poaching, especially in Myanmar. The British-based group Elephant Family said their research shows that the elephant’s skin is ground into powder and sold in China as a cure for stomach ailments, as well as being fashioned into beads for necklaces, bracelets and pendants.

Myanmar officials say there has been an increase in recent years in the poaching of domestic elephants. From 2010 until now, 108 elephants have been killed, Nyi Nyi Kyaw, director general of Myanmar’s Forest Department, said at the burning, according to a statement. Myanmar’s population of wild elephants has been estimated at 2,000.

By weight, the main animal parts destroyed Thursday were elephant ivory, followed by deer and antelope antlers, tiger bones and bear skins. Gallbladders of bears and python, used for traditional Asian medicines, were also destroyed.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.