In a bid to send a strong message against elephant poaching and illegal trading in ivory goods, Prince William of Britain has called for destroying all the 1200 items of ivory in the possession of the Buckingham Palace. Without going into the merits and demerits of destroying finer art pieces, I wish to focus attention of the ivory art works taken from India by the British people during their colonial occupation.
Royal collection: There are over 1,200 items in the Royal Collection which are listed as containing ivory, including this throne and footstool which comes from India and dates to 1850
Though killing innocent animals for the ivory is terribly bad, I am of the opinion that ancient Indian goods of ivory were not made from poached elephants. There is a verse from Sangam age Tamil text, “Nedu nal vaadai” on how ivory was procured for making the Royal cot for the queen of the Pandiyan King Nedum chezhiyan. The elephant having drum-like legs and had crossed 40 years of age and had served in battle field until then was considered as the right candidate for ivory. Its tusk that has fallen on its own from this elephant is ideal for making the cot. The tusks taken from dead or killed elephants were not suitable for making art works. That was the norm of choice for ivory in India where poaching was not reported in the past. Many such rare products had left India, some of them finding a place in Buckingham Palace.
The British Royal family came to possess numerous art works on ivory from many of the overseas countries and kingdoms in the past centuries. I don’t think those works also would have been made through cruel means (of getting the tusk). In all fairness, the British Royal family must return these goods to the original owners wherever the owner countries had been identified. As for the throne and other items taken from India, they must be returned to India and not destroyed.
Prince William 'wants to destroy ALL of Queen's ivory collection to set an example for other world leaders'
Prince William has vowed to destroy all 1,200 ivory artefacts in Buckingham Palace to 'send a message' to illegal elephant poachers.
The priceless collection includes a throne from India that belonged to Queen Victoria, as well as fans, tankards, statuettes, and furniture.
But sources close to the prince say he feels strongly about putting 'his money where his mouth is'. If successful, he will go on to urge other heads of state to follow suit.
A long-term supporter of animal rights charities, the Duke of Cambridge makes regular speeches imploring world leaders to adopt a 'zero tolerance' policy towards illegal poaching in the lucrative trade.
On Thursday, he joined his father Prince Charles to a summit in London urging industry members to 'follow the money' to chase the brutal gangs, just days after the pair released a multi-lingual appeal for people to condemn illegal poaching across the world.
At home in Clarence House, William is said to have ordered for all ivory items to be hidden from sight for years.
Speaking at a conference last year, the second in line to the throne said: 'The forces that are currently destroying some of the world's most endangered species are sophisticated and powerful, but this week we are seeing the creation of an equally powerful alliance, coming together to help fight them.'
The royal collection now under threat mainly consists of gifts handed to the Queen by leaders across the world.
Palace sources insist they were all acquired 'in full knowledge of relevant legislation'.
The princes have been over to Africa to survey the stockpiles of elephant tusks collated from gangs
However, experts have hailed the suggestion as a powerful move that will have significant impact.
'It's difficult to imagine a stronger symbol of the horrors of ivory than Buckingham Palace publicly destroying its own,' Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith told the Independent on Sunday.
'Good for Prince William for pushing this.'
However, the move, the latest in a number of bids by the prince to protect elephants, has sparked outrage in the art world as experts claim destroying works 'of the highest order' is 'menacing'.
The royal collection mainly consists of gifts handed to the Queen by leaders across the world.
Brian Sewell, art critic and elephant-protection supporter, told the Independent on Sunday: 'We have to recognise that [these items] exist.
'I can't see the connection between saving elephants and destroying works of art made centuries ago.'