Kerala Wildlife Department is mulling a proposal to set afire a huge pile of ivory at its disposal to pre-empt its passage into the hands of smugglers or carvers in the future.
Tonnes of elephant tusk, either seized from smugglers or collected from dead jumbos, have been kept in various centres of the department across the state.
A top official said if the huge stock would reach smugglers in the future, it would boost the illegal ivory carving in the country and one way of avoiding that possibility is to destroy the stock, which is of "zero value" now.
"It is just a proposal and we have not taken any final decision on it. Anyway, we are mulling it in the interest of protecting elephants," V Gopinathan, Chief Wildlife Warden told PTI.
"As per Wildlife Act, sale and carving of ivory is a crime. So the ivory in our stock has zero value even though it may be worth many crores of rupees in the illegal market," he said.
"If the value of an object is zero, what is the point in keeping it? We can not dismiss the possibility of reaching them in the hands of smugglers and illegal carvers in course of time," he said.
He said if the proposal is finalised, Kerala might become the first state in the country to destroy ivory.
"I think no other state has destroyed ivory so far. It is very rare even in the global scenario. But, many states have destroyed the horns of rhinos and such wildlife trophies," he said.
Elephant poaching is by and large on the decline in the state and stoppage of the availability of ivory would further reduce the trend, he said.
The department personnel would burn ivory using petrol or other such things if the department gets the permission from the state government. On the number of elephants in the state, he said the sprawling forests in Kerala was home to around 6000 jumbos.
"We have around 550-600 captive elephants and around 6000 wild elephants. It seemed that the number of captive elephants is not increasing. Most probably the state will be short of captive jumbos in the next 25-30 years," he said.