Ivory trade in Hong Kong and China

Build a monument to illegal ivory trade

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 2:55am

What an intriguing question was raised in the reports, "Ivory haul proves a tough sell to schools" (March 15) and "A 16-tonne headache for conservation officers" (March 14).

There are more elephant tusks in Hong Kong now (probably what remains of over 2,000 slaughtered elephants) than in many African countries where elephant populations have been depleted.

Is burning this ivory the best message to the increasing number of people buying it in Hong Kong and on the mainland?

Using ivory as an educational tool is important, but its use in schools needs a clear, associated educational programme. With security in mind, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department cannot even provide environmental organisations with the names of those schools.

The elephants now face a huge battle for survival due to the rampant ivory trade, with China as the main destination.

A recent survey by international marketing firm Ifop shows that 84 per cent of Chinese middle- and upper-middle-class consumers plan to buy ivory as greedy symbols of prestige, luxury and status.

This startling statistic, combined with the very weak protection measures taken at a recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), means that educating people and especially children in Hong Kong and on the mainland has become a priority.

While ivory poachers and traders are locked in their ivory tower, disconnected from the reality of our planet, why not build a different "ivory tower" - a monument to the elephants?

I picture a huge, transparent, double-horn-shaped statue filled with tusks, and surrounded by photos of majestic elephants and poached ones. It won't be a place where people can take status photos but a meaningful sanctuary where children can take field trips and bring their parents. It won't be an illegal structure, either, but a "structure of the illegal".

It could be built anywhere, including Kadoorie Farm, the Wetland Park, Noah's Ark or the Lions Nature Education Centre in Sai Kung.

This would not clear the growing ivory haul, but it would be the ground zero of conservation in this part of the world and a mark of respect for Africa, where people are being killed and livelihoods destroyed because of the ongoing war for ivory.

Before milk powder trading becomes more reprehensible than ivory trafficking, let's send a positive message to the mainland.

Christian Pilard, Eco-Sys Action Foundation