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Tag Archives: Dongguan
12 January, 2014
Hong Kong could be about to take the lead in the fight against elephant poachers and the criminal networks behind the illicit ivory trade by destroying its huge stockpile of the contraband, said the regional head of an influential wildlife conservation group.
The mainland’s decision last week to crush six tonnes of seized ivory may give Hong Kong the momentum it needs to follow through on its own proposal from two years ago to incinerate its 33-tonne stockpile, said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“Hong Kong has a very, very big role to play because if they destroy all 33 tonnes of ivory in its stockpile, it will be unprecedented, as that amount has never been destroyed,” Gabriel said.
Demand for ivory has soared in recent years, driven mainly by buyers in Asia, and mainland China in particular. It has led to a devastation of elephant populations not seen since the 1990s, when the problem prompted international action.
Images of ivory being destroyed in Dongguan last Monday sent ripples through the offices of the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong.
The department’s endangered species advisory committee is responsible for deciding what to do with the stockpile, said Gabriel, who on Friday discussed the issue with two officials.
“They want to destroy the stockpile but the final decision has to come from the committee,” she said. “They have to wait for them to meet, but we have collectively felt this momentum which was not there a year ago, so there is optimism.”
In 2012, the committee rejected a proposal from the department to destroy the city’s stockpile of seized ivory, arguing that it would be wasteful and the ivory should instead be kept for educational purposes.
The department accepted the committee’s recommendation last February, but committee chairman Paul Shin Kam-shing has previously said that he would be happy to return to the issue.
Gabriel said that time had come. “The momentum generated around the world is good and it sends a message to people everywhere that if they had any misgivings that destroying ivory is a waste, now they understand. Ivory is not art, it’s a life; that message is strong.”
She added: “It also takes the burden from having all this contraband which needs to be secured, stored and guarded because of its potential high value.”
The IFAW was part of an alliance of non-governmental organisations that oversaw the Dongguan action and is also working with the French government to destroy stockpiles.
An AFCD spokeswoman said it exchanged views on various conservation issues with NGOs from time to time. It was currently “reviewing the effectiveness of existing disposal measures”, which include donations to schools and universities.
Joanna Chiu, South China Morning Post
08 January, 2014
Pressure is building on Hong Kong to destroy its 33-tonne ivory stockpile after confiscated ivory was crushed on the mainland for the first time on Monday.
Hong Kong has previously rejected destruction as an option.
A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it was “aware of steps in other places to destroy forfeited ivory” and was “reviewing the effectiveness of existing disposal measures”.
She said a revised proposal to destroy Hong Kong’s confiscated ivory would be discussed by the Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) on January 23.
In Dongguan , Guangdong, diplomats, media and international guests watched as two giant grinders destroyed 6.1 tonnes of ivory sculptures and raw tusks.
The move signalled the willingness of the mainland – the world’s largest ivory market – to play a greater role in wildlife protection. It followed a global conservation conference in March at which China and the United States co-sponsored measures to increase protection for more than 40 species, most of which are threatened by Chinese consumers’ tastes and eating habits.
Local activists welcomed Beijing’s actions and called on Hong Kong to follow suit.
“The time has come to destroy Hong Kong’s stockpile. This will send a strong message to poachers and smugglers that Hong Kong is not a viable trade route, and is a city keen to demonstrate leadership on conservation,” said Gavin Edwards, director of conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.
Hong Kong plays a role in the ivory trade both as a transit point for the mainland and as a consumer in its own right. Last month 14 people were arrested at Chek Lap Kok airport after customs officers seized 160kg of raw tusks and ivory products in their checked baggage.
As pressure builds on Hong Kong, conservationists worry that ESAC – a statutory advisory body made up of university researchers and businesspeople – will reject the proposal.
“The committee has discussed this issue already, but members of the committee have objected in the past,” said Alex Hofford, a campaigner for Hong Kong for Elephants. “However, I think there is still a good chance that the government will follow China on this as Hong Kong tends to follow China’s lead on policy matters.”
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department had conducted a trial in Tsing Yi in 2012 to destroy seized ivory and found incineration – rather than crushing the ivory – to be an effective method of disposal. It later dropped the idea because most of its advisers opposed it.
In June, the Philippines destroyed its five-tonne stockpile of confiscated ivory; and since 1992, three elephant range states in Africa – Zambia, Kenya and Gabon – have incinerated their own stockpiles.
James Compton, senior director at the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said that while destroying stockpiles sent a strong message, governments could choose to hold seized ivory in secure storage.
He said governments choosing to do so should be careful to keep inventories to “provide assurances that ivory does not find its way back into illegal markets, further feeding illegal trade”.