• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 7:52am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Educate public about lethal nature of ivory trade

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 5:08am

How many slaughtered African elephants does 1.3 tonnes of ivory tusks represent? It is hard to tell when they are cut into 779 pieces and hidden amid other container cargo. This is the latest ruse employed by smugglers to try to fool Hong Kong customs inspectors on the lookout for an illegal and lethal trade. More than 100 would seem a conservative estimate. It may be debatable whether the elephant or the lion is king of the African plains. But there is no question that this socially organised giant of its own domain needs protecting from human predators driven by greed.

The traditional demand for ivory in Asia, boosted by the nouveau riche on the mainland, is fuelling wholesale elephant slaughter in defiance of a ban on most trade in new ivory. The demand has involved Hong Kong as a convenient transit hub, as it has beem for drug trafficking. The estimated HK$10.6 million haul of tusks from Kenya just seized by customs officers was the third in three months, following a similar shipment in November from Tanzania and a 3.8 tonne haul worth HK$27 million in two shipments from Kenya and Tanzania in October. This time the tusks were concealed in a shipment of architectural stones of similar shape. Officials deny that Hong Kong is becoming a regional hub for the illegal trade because there has been no increase in seizures in recent years. But the trade is continuing, smugglers are getting cleverer at escaping detection, and we only know of intercepted shipments.

There may be a case for controlled culling of elephant populations to maintain a balance of wildlife habitat, but that is best left to conservation authorities, not bounty hunters and their criminal clients.

However repugnant, the ivory trade is not to be compared with smuggling hard drugs. But the latest seizure is a reminder that Hong Kong's location as a transport and financial hub makes it attractive for all kinds of illegal cross-border activities and money laundering. Ultimately, co-operation with law enforcement elsewhere, including intelligence sharing, is the most effective way to combat the ivory trade, as it is with drug trafficking. Public education could help rein in demand. How many admirers of carved ivory would be comfortable with the image of hundreds of elephants killed for that and nothing else? A 2007 study by the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that 70 per cent of Chinese did not know that an elephant had to be killed to have its tusks taken.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Decent people on the planet, lovers of all animals, in particular elephants (and rhinos), animal conversationalists are so disgusted by the vile and heinous crimes committed by ivory poachers which is fuelled by greed and corruption of individuals in the Far East. It is heartening to know that more action, worldwide, is being taken to clamp down on the smugglers, poachers and those at the top of this barbarically cruel & illegal trade. More heartening than that is the knowledge that hopefully educating people in China and other countries where it is considered a status symbol to own a piece of ivory, that these people young and old will be made aware of the cruel & horrible tortuous death these fabulous animals are fated to meet.Elephants are the most majestic of animals, extremely intelligent and so alike human beings in their social structure.Please, please do all you can to put an end to this barbaric cruelty by educating and publicising this vile cruelty.The public of all ages need educating that each ivory tusk produced, is as a result of an elephant losing its life-often dying in agony & often left to die a long, slow & painful death - in addition to causing devastation and sorrow within the herd - and decimation of Africa's most unique heritage - its wildlife & tourism. Please would your newspaper promote the plight of the elephant and rhino. You will know that there is no proven science that rhino hall is medicinal - it is made up of hair and nails. PLEASE HELP!


SCMP.com Account