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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid