Tag Archives: wildlife protection

Hong Kong to consider destroying 33-tonne ivory stockpile after Beijing crushes illegal tusks

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”.


African countries want to join forces to tackle poaching


For the African elephant, 2013 can be described as a bad year. Due to the recent surge in ivory prices (running to thousands of dollars per kg), it has resulted to the death of several thousands of elephants which have been killed by poachers. Just last month, in a wildlife conservation area in Zimbabwe, over 300 elephants were killed after they were poisoned by poachers using cyanide.

Official figures of elephants that have been killed by poachers in the year 2013 are still in preparation, but researchers have recently said that this year is most likely a record breaking year when it comes to the number of elephants that have been killed. According to data provided by England’s TRAFFIC NGO, which was supervised by the Cambridge recently, it is estimated that about 38 tons ivory have been seized so far. Figures from the Kenyan headquarters of “Save The Elephants”, a wildlife protection organization also indicate the same numbers. However, the researchers point out that the figures of the seized ivory need to be treated carefully, because there could be an overestimation in the numbers of ivory seized as well as the fact that there are many unreported cases of illegal ivory trade.

One elephant can produce about 5 kg of ivory, and also the fact that researchers estimate that only 10% of all the ivory has been seized. This indicates that the situation of the elephants is indeed bleak. Holly Dublin, the Chair of IUCN’s African Elephants Specialists says: “I really do not think that the situation will get better this year.”

According to official figures, in the year 2011, a total of 46.5 tons of ivory were confiscated. Samuel Wasser, director of Conservation Biology Center, University of Washington in Seattle, USA, said that the level of illegal hunting reached its peak in 2012, but 2013 could be even more severe. Considering the number of ivory, Wasser estimated that the number of elephants killed in 2011 is 50,000, while the numbers of ivory confiscated in the next 2 years was essentially flat. By inference, TRAFFIC and “Save The Elephants” estimate that the number of elephants killed each year ranges from 25,000 elephants to 35,000 elephants.

Wasser says, “These towns may have some discrepancies but the truth is based on the number of ivory seized recently, the elephants are been killed at a unprecedented speed.

In the past year, there has been an increasing number of political forces conducting joint efforts to curb illegal hunting. These criminal activities are continuously linked with the black market and terrorist groups. Next week, with the assistance of the IUCN, heads of state, scientists and ministers will meet in Gaberone, Botswana to discuss on measures against illegal hunting of elephants, including the establishment of a National Working Group, to use more stringent legal ivory trade sanctions as well as greater use of the military to deal with poachers who are using heavy machinery.

More political forces will join these efforts in the future. The Secretary General of CITES John Scanlon says “We must move quickly in the right direction.”

In a meeting held in Bangkok Thailand in March this year, representatives to the CITES parties agreed to take measures to combat illegal poaching, including inhibition of ivory demand through public education, use gene technology to track seized ivory and so on.

Ivory is a white hard object, whose main component is dentin and is similar to a bone. Ivory is one very expensive raw material, which is oftenly, processed into works of ivory, jewellery or crafts. Additionally, it is processed into billiard balls and piano keys. In order to protect the animals, ivory is a product that has been banned or been boycotted by many countries worldwide.


The original article of this link is: http://news.sciencenet.cn/htmlnews/2013/11/285623.shtm