Bloody Icons


Bryan Christy reports on the rise of illegally traded ivory around the world. He notes that in China, "sales of Buddhist jewelry and related religious products have reached $15.8 billion a year and are growing by 50 percent a year":

By all accounts, China is the world’s greatest villain when it comes to smuggled ivory. In recent years China has been implicated in more large-scale ivory seizures than any other non-African country. For the first time in generations many Chinese can afford to reach forward into a wealthy future, and they can also afford to look back into their own vibrant past. One of the first places many look is religion. … “Ivory is very precious,” Xue tells me, “so to be respectful of the Buddha one should use precious material. If not ivory then gold. But ivory is more precious.” It is a version of the same message I heard from Filipino Catholics: Ivory honors God.

(Photo: Five tons of ivory worth around 10 million euros ($14 million) wait to be burnt on June 27, 2011 in Libreville, Gabon to mark his government's commitment to battling poachers and saving elephants. By Wils Yanick Maniengui /AFP/Getty Images)