Hong Kong International School removes ivory after pupil's complaint

Display of tusks returned to government after animal welfare campaigner calls for review

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 6:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 9:37am

A Hong Kong school has removed a display of ivory taken from dead elephants following a complaint from a young animal-welfare campaigner.

The Hong Kong International School acted after sixth grade pupil Nellie Shute, 11, asked it to review a decision to put ivory objects on show at the upper primary school in Repulse Bay. The ivory will be handed back to the government.

"I objected because … there were ivory tusks and carvings on display in my school and I know the intention was to educate kids, but I don't think it was actually doing that," Nellie said.

Shute thereby added her voice to the growing chorus calling for environment officials to destroy a staggering haul of illegally imported ivory, worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the black market.

"I want other schools to take what we did as an example," Shute said. "If the government has given them tusks, they should send them back and refuse to take any more."

Last year, the government handed the school two polished ivory tusks, a detailed ivory tusk carving, a bracelet and other objects, which went on display in an art cabinet.

The move was part of an initiative to use impounded ivory to educate children about the how the illegal trade is endangering animals.

Nellie said environmental officials had no idea what to do with their ivory stockpiles. "The government is confiscating ivory, but it's not educating the kids because they really don't know what to do [with it]."

An Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department spokeswoman said: "The AFCD will arrange for taking over the concerned specimens. The returned ivory will enter our stockpile again.

"The AFCD … adheres to relevant CITES [the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] guidelines that allow use [of ivory] for scientific studies, enforcement and education."

In the past 12 months, customs officials have made seven seizures at the city's container port, amassing 26 tonnes of ivory. Anti-poaching campaigners say destroying such stockpiles deters poachers, smugglers and buyers.