Hong Kong to burn first part of seized ivory stockpile in May ceremony

First ceremony next month; 'conservation celebrity' may be invited to oversee destruction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 4:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 10:03am

Hong Kong has pencilled in next month for the city's first burning of seized ivory - and the government plans to give the incineration a high profile to drive home the message of conservation.

The government's Endangered Species Advisory Committee voted in January to incinerate almost all the city's 30-tonne ivory stockpile, a year after rejecting the idea.

A source close to the government said conservation officials planned to burn the first batch of ivory at the Tsing Yi chemical waste treatment plant as soon as next month.

They want to send a clear message ... that [the city] is very determined
Committee chairman Paul Shin

No more than three tonnes could be burned in one batch, the source said. The ivory would have to be cut into pieces before being placed in the incinerator with some waste oil.

Committee chairman Paul Shin Kam-shing said he understood officials were preparing for the destruction now and wanted to use the opportunity to press home the message on conservation.

"They want to send a clear message to the whole world that Hong Kong is very determined," he said.

Hong Kong had been increasingly seen as a transport hub for ivory, despite the international trade being banned in 1989.

Committee members have suggested that a "conservation celebrity" - British primatologist Jane Goodall is one name mentioned - be invited to officiate at the destruction ceremony for the ivory.

The committee made its U-turn on incineration after mainland China and the US burned seized ivory. It had previously favoured using the stockpile for education, though schools were reluctant to accept ivory.

About 28 tonnes will be burned, while another 1.6 tonnes will be kept for scientific and education purposes.

Some 6.5 tonnes of ivory stock was destroyed last year as the government tried out different methods of disposal, including an attempt to use it to make cement.

Customs officers have made a series of high-profile ivory seizures in recent years, much of it bound for mainland China. In July, more than 1,000 tusks weighing nearly 2.2 tonnes and worth HK$17.5 million were found in a shipping container.