Children can help save the elephants

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 2:32am

Congratulations to Celia Ho for her excellent letter ("Ivory market an example of inhumanity", October 3). While she pointed out many key facts on elephant conservation, the most important point is that she is a Form Three student. That makes the letter even more special because one of the only hopes for elephants and many other species remains with a new generation of young people caring for their planet and taking action.

The past two years have been the worst in recent memory for elephants. Earlier this year, more than 500 elephants were gunned down in Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon in a commando-style operation that lasted for several days. In April, 22 elephants and their babies were killed in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, probably from a helicopter. Courageous rangers and sometimes desperate poachers - they are not all from ruthless organised gangs - are killed every year.

Why is it worth discussing such an issue in Hong Kong, so far away from Africa? As Celia rightly pointed out, elephants are killed only for their ivory, and most of the illegal ivory trade is sold to Asia and especially to Hong Kong and mainland China, cleverly mixed with past legal ivory for resale.

Legal or illegal, ivory kills. It destroyed people's lives in Africa, and it guts the fragile elephant population. If nothing is done, forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) will be the first to be wiped out in just a few years from now. Then the more famous savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) will disappear area by area, country after country in a systematic killing.

In March, there will be an important Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora meeting in Bangkok. A total ban on ivory trade would be the best decision for elephants, but as obvious as it may sound, the ban is not ensured yet.

One thing, however, on which I disagree with Celia is when she says she "cannot do anything to help". Her letter is a spark of hope, and she can spread the message at her school. If her school can inspire more schools in Hong Kong and then on the mainland and elsewhere, then the sparks may become fire with thousands of young people involved.

Children have the right to decide the future of their planet, especially when adults fail to be smart enough. It may sound too simple and candid for some, but who better to talk and convince parents than their children? When they talk, people listen, and their power is far stronger than the biggest conservation groups combined.

Celia, you can save elephants!

Christian Pilard, Sai Kung