Elephants in Namibia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
The government of Hong Kong will destroy 28 tons of ivory confiscated from traffickers, reports CNN.
The announcement, which comes just weeks after China destroyed six tons of seized ivory, suggests that the leaders of the world’s largest market for ivory may be getting more serious about addressing a global poaching boom, say conservationists.
“This action signals that the fight against the ivory trade is global, and it’s finding increasing favor in critical parts of Asia, among consumers and government officials,” said the Humane Society of the United States in a statement.
“Reducing consumer demand for ivory reduces the incentive for poachers to massacre elephants and for traffickers to engage in illegal ivory trade. Destroying stockpiles of seized ivory, as the recent examples of the U.S. and China have demonstrated, is a great way to raise awareness about the elephant poaching crisis and reminds current and potential buyers to eschew ivory.”
Hong Kong and Guangdong Customs confiscated two shipments of illegal elephant tusks, weighing around 3,813 kg, in October 2012. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong and Guangdong Customs.
Most of the ivory Hong Kong plans to destroy had been seized en route to mainland China by law enforcement and customs officials. China is by far the world’s largest consumer of ivory, accounting for more than two-thirds of global demand. Rising middle class incomes have spurred a surge in poaching in recent years, decimating not only elephants, but other species whose parts confer social status in some circles, including rhinos for their horns and tigers for their bones.
Hong Kong says the contraband will be destroyed in three ton batches and future seizures would also be burned. One ton of ivory will be saved to use for education, according to the government. The U.S. displays crushed ivory to raise awareness about elephants’ plight.
The ivory stash represents between 4,000 and 5,000 dead African elephants. Most elephant ivory comes from Africa, where the population is believed to be declining by 20,000-35,000 elephants per year. A study published last year estimated that 62 percent of Africa’s forest elephants were wiped out in just 10 years (2002-2011).
The ivory destruction by China and Hong Kong is not the only sign of progress on the ivory trade in China. In October a survey commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that two-thirds of Chinese would not buy ivory once informed that it involves elephant killing. In November, an ivory poaching story published in Southern Weekly, a prominent newspaper, went viral on social media in China, being sharing more than 10 million times. The story received wide play outside traditional environmental news outlets in the country. And in December, the Community Party’s Central Committee and the State Council banned wildlife products from being served at official state banquets.