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India's UP Khadi Puts Big Sale on Ivory Ignoring Trade Ban

Nov 14, 2016 03:53 AM EST

Uttar Pradesh Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIC) Deputy CEO A K Shukla invited everyone to the ongoing Khadi Mahotsav in Lucknow, which features the sale of artisanal items made from elephant ivory by locals. According to the Indian Express, Shukla's invitation was sent out last Sunday through a press release, which seemed oblivious to the ivory trade ban imposed in the country.

India, along with 181 countries and the European Union, is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which protects not only the ivory from elephants but over 35,000 species of animals and plants as well. Other members of the CITES include the United States of America, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, China, Bahamas, and Ethiopia, India Times reports.

In the 1980s and '90s, the poaching of tuskers became extremely rampant in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where reportedly 2,000 pachyderms were extinguished for two decades. India has about 30,000-35,000 elephants (not all have tusks though), with Karnataka as the richest source of elephant ivory followed closely by Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Odisha, regions with substantial tusker population.

In 2015, a sudden rise in poaching activity was again seen in these areas with around 30 elephant tuskers falling prey. Ivory has been traded for centuries all over the globe. Historically, elephant ivory was sought to make the whites of eyes of statues. Before plastic was invented, elephant tusks and their ivory were used as materials for false teeth, musical instruments, dominos, and other ornaments.

India is in possession of somewhere around 30 tons of ivory. Currently, there is a heated debate among research experts and wildlife conservationists whether the said stockpile should be burned like what was done in Kenya as a powerful demonstration against poaching and illegal ivory trade, or whether a part of it should be saved for research purposes. Kenya holds the world record of burning the largest pile of ivory, setting on fire at least a hundred tons of it.

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