A priest in the Philippines is being investigated by authorities after he directed an undercover National Geographic reporter to ivory traders.
Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, who National Geographic reports is “one of the best known ivory collectors in the Philippines,” is now facing some tough questions from Philippine authorities over his potential involvement in the illegal ivory trade.
Garcia was quoted in the October issue of National Geographic telling journalist Bryan Christy where he could find ivory carvers and traders. He also offered tips on how ivory could be smuggled into the US, advising Christy to wrap ivory in “old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it,” to disguise it as a soiled piece of clothing.
Sixto Comia, chief of the environmental and wildlife investigation division of the National Bureau of Investigation, says authorities are investigating Garcia’s comments, though the priest has not been charged with any crime and his vast personal collection has not been confiscated. National Geographic reports that Garcia owns a “mini-museum” of ivory religious figures.
Garcia currently works with the Cebu Archdiocese, which released a statement on Wednesday saying that Garcia’s past has been elevated to the Holy See, the Vatican City government of the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese statement added:
“The Church is also aware of the gravity of the crime of pederasty. In recent pronouncements, the Church has stated her regret for the failure to address the problem in a more decisive and effective way.”
Since the National Geographic piece was published, Garcia has reportedly been absent from the Archdiocese through illness.
An increasing number of elephants in Africa are being killed for their tusks with the ivory from hunts being traded in Asia where demand is high, particularly in countries such as China and Thailand.