Going up in Smoke - Hong Kong to Destroy 30 Tonnes of Ivory

Jan 24, 2014, 15:33 ET from International Fund for Animal Welfare

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Conservationists have hailed Hong Kong's decision to incinerate 30 tonnes of its stockpiled illegal ivory in the next 24 months.

"Following hot on the heels of mainland China pulverizing six tonnes of ivory in early January, this decision by Hong Kong SAR is one to be celebrated," said Grace Gabriel, Asia Regional Director of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org).

"The destruction of this huge quantity of ivory is unprecedented. When Hong Kong - a main transit point for illegal ivory into mainland China - destroys its stockpiles, it sends a very powerful message to criminals that they have zero tolerance for the killing of elephants for the ivory trade. By destroying stockpiles they are preventing any chance of it being laundered back into the market. I am particularly pleased to see that the HK authorities reversed from their previous hesitance about ivory destruction to make the right decision today."

Hong Kong, a special administration of China, will join Kenya, Gabon, the Philippines, US and most recently mainland China in the destruction of ivory stockpiles. Last week France announced it would also be destroying their stockpile.

Up to 50,000 elephants a year are killed by poachers for their ivory. The illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated US$19-billion a year, ranking fourth on the list of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

"More than 41 tonnes of contraband ivory was seized in 2013 – the largest amount in 25 years – with large scale seizures (those weighing more than 800 kgs) the norm rather than the exception," said Gabriel.

Gabriel said public demand for action to stop the slaughter and killing of elephants, had pressured world leaders into taking action to save elephants.

"Wildlife crime ranks among the most serious, dangerous and damaging of international crimes along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales," she said. "In the past months we've seen an encouraging increase in the numbers of seizures of ivory, and more international cooperation to act for elephants than ever before".

"Unfortunately these successes highlight the extent of the problem. If we are to save elephants we need to address every link in the ivory chain. That means stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking and stopping the demand".

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as "white gold". The trade of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol's Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol's largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare