Archaeologist urges owners of post-1990 ivory items to surrender illicit goods-A A +A
Friday, September 28, 2012
THE ivory trade issue poses an ethical dilemma for heritage advocates and antique collectors, said archeologist and heritage expert Jojo Bersales.
To resolve the problem, he urged owners of ivory icons and objects, made after the international ban, to surrender the items to authorities or donate these to churches or museums.
“I don't think all religious ivory (statues) out there are old. There are new ivory made to look old. They (owners of new ivory) are feeding the ivory trade,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.
He said ivory icons made after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the trade of ivory in 1990 come from illicit trade.
Commenting on the National Geographic report on ivory trade, Bersales said ivory collectors and environmentalists look at ivory differently. “Environmentalists do not look at this as a work of art. They see this as a tusk (of an elephant) that had to die, had to be killed,” he added.
Ivory comes from the elephant’s tusk, which is part of the set of the mammal’s set of teeth. Since one-third of the tusk is embedded in the elephant’s head, poachers kill the animal to remove the whole tusk.
The tusk is vital to the survival of the elephant since it is used in foraging and digging for food. It is also part of the elephant’s defense against predators.
The cover story of the National Geographic’s October 2012 issue focused on the ivory trade and religious icons made of ivory.
The National Geographic article “Blood Ivory,” written by Bryan Christy, mentions former Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Worship chairman Msgr. Cristobal Garcia and his collection of ivory icons. In the article, Christy reported that Garcia gave him pointers how to smuggle ivory.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma directed the Archdiocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage of the Church to investigate ivory religious items, including those owned by Msgr. Garcia.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are also conducting a separate probe on the ivory trade in different parts of the country, including Cebu.
DENR 7 Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo said he met with NBI 7 Edward Villarta yesterday to discuss how to go about the investigation.
He declined to give details, except that the investigation will involve the National Museum of the Philippines to help determine whether a religious icon is made of ivory or not.
Authorities would try to determine the date of the ivory used in the items, to verify if these were traded when the ban was in place.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 28, 2012.