By Elleka Watts
Customs agents in Hong Kong have reportedly seized 189 elephant tusks adding up to approximately 769 kilograms (1,695 lbs.) of ivory in the city’s third-largest bust of endangered species products since July. Officials said the illegal ivory was worth an estimated US$1.5 million.
According to the Associated Press, the ivory shipments originally came from Cote d’Ivoire but the intended destination was allegedly mainland China.
Apparently, the Hong Kong government has become increasingly used to these type of busts. In July, Hong Kong customs agents found US$2.2 million worth of ivory tusks in a previous bust coming in from Togo. Also, last August, customs agents seized not only ivory, but also rhino horns and leopard skins worth US$5.3 million, which had come from Nigeria.
Conservationists and wildlife activists have been blaming China and Thailand for the massive surge in elephant poaching in Africa because of Asian demand for ivory trinkets, ornaments and other goods. In fact, activists have been warning about the dangers of increased ivory demand coming from these countries for a while now.
Jeffrey Gettleman, the East Africa Bureau Chief for the New York Times, told CNN why ivory and other endangered species goods are in such high demand in Asia. "It's the economic growth in Asia. And what's interesting is a lot of these economies are becoming more modern, more sophisticated, more advanced, like China, Vietnam, other parts of Asia, but they still adhere to traditional beliefs. And in many parts of Asia, ivory and rhino horn powder are valued for ceremonial purposes, for religious purposes, cultural purposes."
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) even released a report earlier this year about Africa’s elephant crisis, in which it too linked the issue to rising demand in Asia. More....