Three tonnes of ivory was crushed at the base of the Eiffel Tower yesterday in a bid to underline France’s determination to stamp out the illegal trade.
Environmental campaigner Nicolas Hulot, who attended the event, said: “We are the first in Europe (to do this). It is a very strong signal of France’s commitment to combat the illegal trade in endangered species.”
Mr Hulot spoke about the plight of the elephant in Central Africa, where poaching has ravaged the elephant population, which is now estimated to be about 500,000.
“This is a step, certainly not the end of the fight," he said, adding that ivory poaching "is not only an environmental problem but also a major safety problem because the money is reinjected into other trades, destabilising parts of Africa.”
In December, it was announced that France would strengthen its stance on the illegal ivory trade, seizing imports, strengthening powers of investigation and doubling fines for traffickers.
The ivory trade is on the rise again despite a moratorium imposed on international trade in 1989.
"Ivory is of interest to speculators (and) collectors but also to the Chinese middle-class dream is to own a piece of hanko (seal) ivory,” said Céline Sissler Bienvenu, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, France.
“To reduce demand in China, we run awareness campaigns to make it clear to buyers that each piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant."