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Hong Kong Ivory Burn Necessary Step in Halting Elephant Slaughter

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2014
  • Nairobi, Kenya
Carved ivory

Ornately carved ivory pieces can sell for thousands of dollars in China and are typically purchased and displayed to convey a person's wealth and status. Photo: Martin Harvey

Series of burns by Hong Kong authorities to destroy 29.6 metric tons of seized ivory

Three wildlife conservation groups operating in Africa and Asia are hailing tomorrow’s ivory burn in Hong Kong as a moral, and necessary, step in halting the ongoing slaughter of Africa’s elephants. African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), WildAid, and Save the Elephants support Hong Kong’s decision to destroy its ivory stockpile and condemn the illegal ivory trade. Demand for elephant ivory is widely accepted as the primary driver of elephant poaching in Africa.

“It’s time we all recognized that a rather grotesque desire for an animal’s teeth is resulting in the near-extinction of elephants half a world away,” said Dr. Patrick Bergin, CEO of African Wildlife Foundation. “The message behind Hong Kong’s ivory burn is clear: The illicit ivory market must be—and will be—shut down for good. Anything less will be not only ecologically devastating for many of Africa’s landscapes but also, simply, morally unconscionable.”

According to a new study by TRAFFIC, which monitors illegal wildlife trafficking, about 33 metric tons of illegal ivory have been seized in Hong Kong since 2003. More recently, major retailers in Hong Kong have been taking it upon themselves to halt sales of ivory within their stores.

“Hong Kong is demonstrating the conviction needed to end the ivory trade,” said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid. “We hope more governments and consumers will act to reduce demand for ivory and join us in educating consumers.” A survey conducted by AWF, WildAid, and Save the Elephants found that consumers say no to ivory after learning that elephants must be killed to obtain their tusks. The three NGOs are currently running a celebrity-based public awareness campaign in Asia to educate ivory consumers about the impact of the trade.

“Excess demand for ivory is the root of the elephant poaching crisis. All other efforts to stop the killing of elephants will be useless if the world doesn't stop buying ivory. Hong Kong’s leadership could save Africa’s elephants,” said Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, CEO of Save the Elephants.

Chris Lee, an AWF trustee and a native of Hong Kong, remarks that it’s impossible for the Hong Kong citizens to ignore what is happening in Africa. “Too frequently we see news stories about tons of ivory being seized in Hong Kong,” he says. “It’s a constant, grisly reminder of just how many elephants are being killed in the name of ivory worship. I am glad to see Hong Kong taking such a strong stance and raising awareness about what is happening.”

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