Thanks for ivory battle, child defenders of elephants tell officials

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 3:05am

Five children have given handmade thank-you cards to government officials for their efforts to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife.

The young campaigners also delivered a 60,000-signature petition to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, ahead of a crunch meeting today that will decide the fate of the city's huge stockpile of seized elephant ivory.

Christina Seigrist, nine, and 11-year-olds Lucy Skrine and Nellie Shute joined two friends to meet customs officials at the customs warehouse in Kwai Chung.

Christina and Lucy started a petition to have the city's stockpile of ivory destroyed, earning them the nickname "elephant angels", while Nellie persuaded Hong Kong International School, which she attends, to remove an "educational" ivory display.

They handed over cards and messages for customs commissioner Clement Cheung Wan-ching and conservation department head Alan Wong Chi-kong.

"We feel [Cheung] has done so much to help the battle," Lucy said.

"All good Hong Kong citizens need to know about the destruction of ivory tusks," Christina added.

Colourful drawings and messages adorned the cards, including one message urging customs officers, who have pulled off a series of ivory seizures in recent months, to "keep going".

In her letter to Cheung, Christine wrote: "Thank you for all your work … It is good to know there are people like you to show us how to be better citizens."

The young activists then took the petition to department headquarters in Cheung Sha Wan, where they made an emotive call for the destruction of the 33-tonne ivory stockpile.

"What's most heartbreaking is the small elephant tusks - the babies that were killed," Nellie said. "They had to die for this."

A department spokeswoman said it was aware of public opinion regarding the disposal of ivory ahead of today's meeting of its Endangered Species Advisory Committee.

Ivory seizures have increased dramatically in recent years but the government has preferred to keep it for educational purposes rather than destroying it.

The petition is backed by the campaign group Hong Kong for Elephants and the Aquameridian Conservation and Education Foundation.