Sri Lankan authorities have begun destroying a shipment of African ivory seized three years ago, following a ceremony at which Buddhist monks gave the slaughtered elephants blessings for a better rebirth.

The ivory was traced to northern Mozambique and Tanzania and has been valued by Sri Lankan customs at 368 million rupees (more than $2.5 million). Officials said the ivory, which was seized at Colombo's port, was being transported to Dubai through Kenya and Sri Lanka.

The destruction took place in an elaborate ceremony in Colombo on Tuesday attended by politicians, officials and diplomats.

The ivory was crushed by machines into smaller pieces that will later be burned to ash in high temperature ovens at a cement factory.