Hong Kong destroys ivory stock pile

Hong Kong on Thursday began destroying nearly 30 tonnes of ivory seized from smugglers, in the world’s largest such operation that marks a significant step in combating the illegal trade in elephant tusks.
The operation, which involves incinerating a stockpile seized since 2003, comes after a government committee on endangered species agreed on the move following intense pressure from conservation groups.
“Today’s ceremony sends a loud and clear message to both the local and the international community that the Hong Kong government is determined to curb illegal trade in elephant ivory,” the city’s environment secretary Wong Kam-sing told reporters.
“We hope curbing illegal trade in ivory will help stop illegal poaching of elephants,” Wong said at a treatment plant in the city’s Tsing Yi district.
Around one tonne (1,000 kilograms) of elephant tusks was destroyed Thursday at the plant, where they were first broken down into smaller pieces and burned in an incinerator. Charred bits of ivory will be sent to a landfill.
Authorities plan to destroy 28 tonnes of ivory over the course of a year.
The city has been a transit point for the illegal ivory trade with tusk seizures rising steadily since 2009, reaching a record of 8,041 kilograms seized in 2013.
Its gigantic stockpile is also one of the largest in the world, drawing ire from environmentalists.
A total of 33.37 tonnes of tusks were seized since 2003, mostly shipped from African nations by sea. Some 400 kilograms of the stockpile has been donated to schools for educational purposes, and some has already been incinerated in test runs.
Being the world’s largest recorded ivory destruction, the move marks a significant step to stem illegal ivory smuggling, environmental groups say.
“Hong Kong’s leadership could save Africa’s elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of the conservation group Save the Elephants.
He added that all efforts to stop the killing of elephants will fail unless the illegal ivory trade is stopped.
Experts believe that most illegal ivory is headed to China – where products made from the material have long been seen as status symbols – with some estimating the country accounts for as much as 70% of global demand.
The city’s action follow similar programmes by various governments to destroy ivory tusks.
The Chinese government crushed a pile of ivory weighing more than six tonnes in one go in January, its first public destruction of ivory, to discourage the illegal trade.
France crushed three tonnes of illegal ivory in a ceremony at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in February.
Ivory trading was banned in 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international agreement between governments, but poaching has continued.
Source: The Guardian