With over 33 tonnes of illegal ivory in its stockpile, Hong Kong has one of the largest stocks in the world. That though is set to change shortly after todays vote when the Endangered Species Advisory Committee voted to destroy the stocks. Hong Kong now follows China, the United States, Philippines, Gabon and Kenya.
Full details of the ivory destruction are still being confirmed and release but early indications are that Hong Kong is set to destroy 28 of its estimated 33 tonnes of ivory stocks.
The press release from the committee has confirmed that apart from a small amount being saved for educational purposes all the stocks of ivory held by Hong Kong will be destroyed over a 1 to 2 year period. The first destruction will take place in the first half of this year.
The vote for the destruction was unanimous and the committee considered that the costs of security and the management burden associated with monitoring the stockpile was too great to continue and destruction was the only viable option.
The method of destruction is through incineration.
Pressure is also growing in other countries for more ivory destruction in order to try and combat the killings of elephants which has reached the scale of the 1980’s. The European Parliament has recently called on member states to destroy their ivory stocks and there are the first serious calls for Tanzania to destroy its ivory stockpile. While the central Indian government has ordered its states to destroy their ivory stocks so far no sate has complied.
With Hong Kong being a major destination country as well as a transit country its decision has major implications for the fight against ivory trading and elephant poaching. It also throws down the gauntlet to other countries, especially European countries who have been very slow to respond to a growing anti-ivory sentiment across the world.
With the US, China and Hong Kong now destroying major stockpiles of ivory it can only be a question of time before a European country decides to join a growing number of countries who see no value in storing ivory in the hope that a future trade may be allowed.
Destruction of the ivory sends the message that ivory has no value and removes the possibility of stockpiles being stolen by criminal gangs. With the value of ivory increasing any stockpile is a target for criminals as was seen last year in the UK where burglars stole an elephant tusk that was loaned out to the Wingham Wildlife Park by the Border Agency. Had the UK destroyed its ivory stockpile then there would be no tusks or ivory to seize.
Hong Kong has taken a bold step forward and joined a small but growing group of enlightened countries who see living elephants roaming the savannahs and forests of Africa or the forests of India being much more important than a trinket to display.
The order to destroy the ivory comes against a backdrop of an estimated 100 elephants being killed each day in order to meet a growing demand from wealthy Asians. The amount of ivory seized by officials in 2013 was over 44 tonnes – the highest in over 25 years.
With an estimated 8% of the world’s elephant population being killed each year by poachers elephant populations are on the declines in many areas. With a 5% reproduction rate each year elephants are unable to compensate for the scale of losses now happening.
Forest elephants of central and west Africa are being particularly hard hit. Ivory from forest elephants are highly sought after by carvers due to it’s colour, shape and texture. Add to this the lack of resources and insecurity in the central African region and the result is that forest elephant of Africa could be effectively extinct in the wild in 10-15 years.