The elephant ivory trade is today more or less forbidden, or at least restricted. The illegal business continues however in large scale. It seems that maybe 8 percent of the elephant worldwide population is eliminated each year, much more than the low birth rate (1% ?). It’s estimated that at least 22 000 (36 000 ?) elephants are killed each year for their ivory. With this tendency, it's feared that the elephant population in Central Africa will have disppeared in a decade or two. Most countries now, at least officially, take actions to stop the illegal killing and business.
There is still some legal ivory business around, based on existing stocks and on natural death and consideration is also taken to the fact that in some countries large parts of the population depends on this trade for their living as well in the exporting as the importing (mainly Asian) countries. Some also draw the attention to a risk that by tough restrictions, what still is traded will take an even higher value and increase the “mafia” interest in this trade.
However, the official attitude in most countries is now that the only real direction to take is to completely stop the ivory trade. Some countries have therefore made some spectacular destroying actions – one was made in China very recently. In France, as first European country, such action took place February 6, when close to Eiffel Tower, some 3 tons of ivory, confiscated by customs, were destroyed in front of the press and in the presence of official representatives. 3 tons correspond to a value of some 6 or 7 million US dollars.
However… With an average weight of possibly 10 kg per tusk = 20 kg per killed elephant (mostly adult African males), the total weight of the tusks of (the lower figure of) 22 000 elephants would correspond to some illegal 400-500 tons on the market each year (with a value of around 1 billion $). (My calculations are based on rather vague information found on the net here and there, so someone may wish to correct these figures.) Even if these figures, including the average weight per tusk may be wrong or too high, it's obvious that what has been oficially destroyed recently - 6 tons in the U.S., 6 tons in China and 3 tons in France - is very marginal, especially considering that this corresponds to several years of seizures.
I checked on the net and found that several sites offer ivory, mostly referred to as "vintage", including ebay, but also e.g. here, here and here.
As said above, French authorities wanted to give an example and make publicity about this business. I heard about it and wanted to attend, but realised that as normal public I would have been far away and not see or hear much or anything. I somehow managed to slip in as if I were a press representative, the only chance to take acceptable pictures, even though it meant “fighting” for space with maybe a hundred press, radio and TV journalists, professional photographers…
Here is what I could see:
French authorities were represented by the Minister of Ecology, Philippe Martin and by one of France’s leading ecological leaders, now working in some kind of role as a presidential ecological “ambassador”, Nicolas Hulot.
After some speeches, the ivory was brought over to a transport band, leading to a grinder and ended up as dust, which later will be incinerated.