News / Asia

Hong Kong Begins to Destroy Ivory Stockpile

Officials and guests including Hong Kong Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, second right, are shown seized ivory, May 15, 2014.
Officials and guests including Hong Kong Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, second right, are shown seized ivory, May 15, 2014.
Ivan Broadhead
Authorities in Hong Kong Thursday began the process of destroying nearly 30 tons of ivory, arguing that it was too expensive to safeguard one of the world’s largest caches of elephant tusk.  While conservationists praise the gesture, saying it shows the government's commitment to fighting wildlife crime, many insist more needs to be done in Asia to help tackle the poaching of critically endangered elephant and rhino species.  

After years of indecision, the Hong Kong government has incinerated the first ton of ivory from its vast stockpile of elephant tusk, confiscated from wildlife crime syndicates since 2004.  

Speaking at the facility where the 35 barrels of chopped ivory were destroyed, the head of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee, Paul Shin, told reporters that Hong Kong was intent on helping end elephant poaching.

“Today is not a celebration, but a solemn reminder of the tragedy that so many elephants have been illegally killed solely for the market value of their tusk," said Shin.

The semi-autonomous Chinese city is a major transshipment hub for the illegal trade in elephant tusk and rhino horn.  Last year, local officials seized eight tons of ivory, from countries as far away as Nigeria and South Africa, that were en route to increasingly affluent consumers across Asia.

Members of the government advisory committee had faced criticism for their previous reluctance to destroy the stockpile.  They cited its potential resale value on the legal market as prices soared.

With China and the United States beginning to incinerate their own stockpiles earlier this year, officials announced in January that Hong Kong would incinerate 28 tons of tusk by mid-2015.

That process could help educate Asian consumers, not just about animal conservation but about wider issues linked to elephant and rhino poaching including armed conflict, says Julie Ayling of the Transnational Environmental Crime project at Australian National University.   

“For example, the evidence indicates that some militias, insurgent groups in Africa, have become involved in the illegal wildlife trade.  There is a suggestion that the Janjaweed from Sudan have been involved in ivory smuggling to make money [for their cause]," said Ayling.

While incineration removes any chance of poached ivory being laundered back into the market, there need to be more studies on the effects of destroying supplies, suggests Tom Milliken, head of elephant and rhino programs at the wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic.

“Conventionally, if you have a commodity in high demand and you reduce supply, you get an increase in price.  We need to be evidence led.  We cannot just embrace the notion that [burning] is a solution without being able to root that conviction in the reality of what is happening on the black market," said Milliken.

Efforts to eradicate the black market must also be maintained across Asia, adds Milliken.  In particular, focus needs to return to widely ignored countries like Thailand, where, he says, the tourist trade in ivory trinkets needs to be shut down completely.

“The Thai government has tacitly committed to this, but the political turmoil there is completely retarding any meaningful progress," he said. "If we’re not going to see results in the short term, then maybe we need to be pushing for things like sanctions to get better compliance?”

Amid the gloom of ever-dwindling elephant populations, Milliken and other conservationists take solace from Japan.  A decade ago, Japan was a major ivory consumer. Today, that market has diminished considerably as younger generations turn their back on the commodity.  

With several Hong Kong retailers this week announcing they will no longer sell ivory products, the hope is that the incineration of the Hong Kong stockpile might spark a similar success.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid