Belgium crushes 1.5 tonnes of ivory in dramatic bid to save elephants

“The Belgian government is putting wildlife traffickers on notice that their pursuit of profit at the expense of the world’s natural heritage and biodiversity will not be tolerated,” said Azzedine Downes, IFAW CEO and President, who spoke at the event. “The Belgian government should be saluted for taking a firm and public stand on ivory trafficking and working to save the world’s threatened elephants. Not only are we losing an elephant every 15 minutes but the ivory trade is undercutting law and order in elephant range states and enriching organised crime syndicates – the slaughter of elephants must be stopped.”

This morning the Belgian government, in conjunction with the IFAW, destroyed its stockpile of seized ivory weighing more than 1.5 tonnes.

“Publicly destroying ivory likes this helps wake the world to the plight of elephants and the devastation caused by the ivory trade. In the war against ivory trafficking the enemy is armed, organised and rich. We need to ensure that we, the NGOs, government and citizens fighting for elephants, are similarly well-organised and well-resourced,” concluded Downes.

The event was hosted by Belgian Vice Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx. Also speaking at the event was Gratien Capiau, Head of Belgian Customs Procedures.

“Belgium and other EU member states desperately need to develop and fund an Action Plan to improve internal EU enforcement and support countries to stop the killing, the trafficking and demand,” said IFAW EU Regional Director Sonja Van Tichelen. “The EU and especially countries with the diplomatic skills and connections of Belgium, must use their soft power to enforce implementation. The EU and its member states combined are the world’s largest aid donors. With a bilateral and regional aid relationship with every developing country in the world the EU has the potential to lead the world in tackling wildlife crime.”

Seizures of illegal ivory in the world continue to increase: 24.3 tonnes in 2011, 30 tonnes in 2012, and 41.5 tonnes in 2013.

As part of an international initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity to fight this trafficking, IFAW trains law enforcement officials on the prevention of illicit trafficking of wildlife species in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean. IFAW recently signed a memorandum of understanding with INTERPOL, the first ever signed with an NGO by the INTERPOL programme on environmental crime. IFAW and INTERPOL have collaborated on many projects since 2005, including last year’s largest ever international operation to fight against ivory trafficking.



High-res photos and video of the ivory crush available. For more information, photos or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on +44 (0)207 587 6708, mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email

Notes to Editors:

Criminal Nature, about the threat to global security posed by the illicit trade of wildlife, is available at

An infographic on Belgium and the Ivory Trade available here:

The ivory trade in numbers:

25,000 – 50,000 elephants killed per year – 100 elephants killed per day – one elephant killed every 15 minutes.

Similar ivory crush events have also been staged in recent months in the US, China and France and in February IFAW crushed dozens of pieces of ivory in London which had been donated by the UK public.