In a landmark decision, the Hong Kong Endangered Species Advisory Committee voted today to destroy almost the entire ivory stockpile, 28 of its estimated 33 tons. 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 also 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. Hong Kong now follows China, the United States, Philippines, Gabon and Kenya.
"The decision to destroy almost the entire stockpile dwarfs the destruction of only 6.1 tons in mainland China on January 4th, and shows that the Hong Kong authorities are taking the issue much more seriously" Elephant Action League's Executive Director Mr Andrea Crosta said. "Hong Kong is teaching a lesson to Beijing".
Elephant Action League called the ceremony in Guangzhou, China, on the 4th of January, just a public relation exercise to ease the pressure from the international community.
"But what happened today in Hong Kong is just the first step. The next challenge, which is the most important, is to eliminate the ivory demand and curb the illegal trade", Mr Crosta continued. "The legal Chinese domestic market is the single most important factor behind the massacre of thousand of elephants every year. There are also private investors and criminals who are illegally stockpiling ivory for future profits, like you can do with gold".
Over 35,000 elephants are killed every year in Africa for their ivory. In many African countries elephants are now extinct or very endangered.
The illegal ivory trade is also the cause for a heavy Human Toll. It provides funds to criminal and terrorist groups, and hundreds of people die every year trying to defend or kill elephants, leaving behind orphans, widows and entire local communities exploited (http://elephantleague.org/project/if-you-buy-ivory-you-kill-people-the-new-campaign).
China is the final destination of most of the illegal ivory from Africa, with tens of tons of ivory smuggled into the country every year and then processed at carving factories authorized by the government.
Elephant Action League (EAL), a California based non-profit organization, with representatives in New York, Amsterdam and London, fights elephant exploitation and wildlife crime. It supports anti-poaching and anti-trafficking projects on the ground in Eastern and Central Africa's most important protected areas. Among others, in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania, EAL supports anti-poaching in collaboration with PAMS Foundation and Tanzania National Parks Authorities (TANAPA). In Gabon and Guinea EAL supports the anti-trafficking activities of the EAGLE Network.
The Elephant Action League, with its groundbreaking investigation on the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, was the first to find concrete evidence on the link between terrorism and the ivory trade (http://elephantleague.org/project/africas-white-gold-of-jihad-al-shabaab-and-conflict-ivory)
On January 1st, EAL launched a campaign to destroy the ivory stockpile in Italy in order to push the whole European Union to do the same.