• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:19am
NewsHong Kong
ILLEGAL TRADE

Hong Kong to consider destroying 33-tonne ivory stockpile after Beijing crushes illegal tusks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 9:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 January, 2014, 7:32am
 

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9 Jan 2014
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Pressure is building on Hong Kong to destroy its 33-tonne ivory stockpile after confiscated ivory was crushed on the mainland for the first time on Monday.

Hong Kong has previously rejected destruction as an option.

A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it was "aware of steps in other places to destroy forfeited ivory" and was "reviewing the effectiveness of existing disposal measures".

She said a revised proposal to destroy Hong Kong's confiscated ivory would be discussed by the Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) on January 23.

In Dongguan , Guangdong, diplomats, media and international guests watched as two giant grinders destroyed 6.1 tonnes of ivory sculptures and raw tusks.

The move signalled the willingness of the mainland - the world's largest ivory market - to play a greater role in wildlife protection. It followed a global conservation conference in March at which China and the United States co-sponsored measures to increase protection for more than 40 species, most of which are threatened by Chinese consumers' tastes and eating habits.

Local activists welcomed Beijing's actions and called on Hong Kong to follow suit.

"The time has come to destroy Hong Kong's stockpile. This will send a strong message to poachers and smugglers that Hong Kong is not a viable trade route, and is a city keen to demonstrate leadership on conservation," said Gavin Edwards, director of conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.

Hong Kong plays a role in the ivory trade both as a transit point for the mainland and as a consumer in its own right. Last month 14 people were arrested at Chek Lap Kok airport after customs officers seized 160kg of raw tusks and ivory products in their checked baggage.

As pressure builds on Hong Kong, conservationists worry that ESAC - a statutory advisory body made up of university researchers and businesspeople - will reject the proposal.

"The committee has discussed this issue already, but members of the committee have objected in the past," said Alex Hofford, a campaigner for Hong Kong for Elephants. "However, I think there is still a good chance that the government will follow China on this as Hong Kong tends to follow China's lead on policy matters."

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department had conducted a trial in Tsing Yi in 2012 to destroy seized ivory and found incineration - rather than crushing the ivory - to be an effective method of disposal. It later dropped the idea because most of its advisers opposed it.

In June, the Philippines destroyed its five-tonne stockpile of confiscated ivory; and since 1992, three elephant range states in Africa - Zambia, Kenya and Gabon - have incinerated their own stockpiles.

James Compton, senior director at the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said that while destroying stockpiles sent a strong message, governments could choose to hold seized ivory in secure storage.

He said governments choosing to do so should be careful to keep inventories to "provide assurances that ivory does not find its way back into illegal markets, further feeding illegal trade".

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18

This article is now closed to comments

lexishk
Further proof, if any were needed, that HK officials will never do a thing simply because it's right, but only to impress the mainland masters or once abject embarrassment can no longer be avoided.
leormac
some good points... why was it not destroyed before, why hold on to it and why did we not lead the way in asia???
kazmadhatter.cobb
I do not believe China destroyed all their stockpile and would like to know what they did with the Ivory dust which can still be used. They should have burnt it. Its was just a PR stunt. If Hong Kong does destroy, let hope they use a proper crusher and and a wood crusher like China and also burn it then I might have a bit more faith.
pragmatist
Would the reporter please explain the stated official rationale behind the advisory body's opposition. I would have appreciated a more elaborate discussion of this important point. If possible, please reply here and explain to us. thank you.
ramsay
This is not a decision to be taken lightly. Typically people think that destroying the ivory will stop the poaching. Not in the least. All it does is drive up the price and make it more profitable for the smugglers.
Perhaps it would have been better to chip it and sell it in small, controlled batches, with the money going to the frontline of the war on poaching.
Sadly it's one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" issues.
daily
The HK government is incapable of even making such a simple decision........let's face it, the government officials just don't have the balls to do anything other than show up in the office 9-5.
barbaraR
Thank you Chinese people and children for taking a stand against the Ivory trade and the unrelenting slaughter of these wonderful animals. Please rather come to Africa to see them in the wild. Also remember our rhinos are almost extinct from poaching.
Thank you from South Africa
rmackinnon
Please sign these Hong Kong school girls' petition to get the government to destroy this city's 33 tonne stockpile: www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Hong_Kong_Government_Please_Burn_the_Confiscated_Ivory_Stockpile/
More info on the campaign here: www.Facebook.com/HK4elephants
And here: Twitter.com/HK4elephants
raysun2005
HKG officials, if you burn the ivory, you are driving up black market ivory prices. You should flood the market with cheap ivory and the poachers will be out of a job,simple economics.
impala
Indeed. Why on earth did we not destroy it long ago? Why is it kept and not destroyed after capture anyway?

Surely there are some significant expenses involved with the secure storage of 33 tonnes of ivory. What a waste of taxpayer money.

What else do our custom officials capture and then keep stockpiles of? Illegal drugs? Cigarettes? Milk powder? Explosives?

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