National Geographic Daily News
Photo of a shipment of ivory tusks seized by customs officials from an imported container.

A shipment of more than 700 ivory tusks worth over $1 million was seized by customs officials in Hong Kong in early January 2013.

Photograph by Bobby Yip, Reuters

Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic

Published January 23, 2014

Twenty-eight tons of Hong Kong's elephant ivory will soon go up in flames—the largest stockpile ever burned, the semi-autonomous Chinese region announced Thursday.

The decision makes Hong Kong the latest government to destroy its ivory, following recent moves by the United States and the Philippines.

In June 2013, the Philippines crushed five tons of seized ivory, becoming the world's first ivory-consuming nation to destroy its national ivory stock.

The act comes in the wake of the country's being identified by National Geographic magazine as having a longtime ivory-trafficking problem.

Hong Kong's ivory will be destroyed over a period of two years, and any ivory confiscated in the future will be regularly disposed of, Hong Kong's Endangered Species Advisory Committee Chairman Paul Shin said in a press conference.

"The committee strongly calls upon countries all over the world to make [a] concerted effort in combating illegal poaching of elephants and to undertake vigorous measures to protect elephants," Shin said. (Watch a video of Shin's announcement.)

A 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty banned all trade in elephant ivory, but poaching continues to feed black market sales.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, about 96 elephants a day are killed illegally in Africa, largely because of the demand for their ivory. Much of that ivory ends up in China, where it is carved and sold domestically or abroad. (Read "Ivory Worship" in National Geographic magazine.)

Due to poaching and other causes, the African elephant population has fallen to an estimated 500,000 elephants, down from as many as three to five million in the 1930s and '40s, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

"Extraordinary" Action

In recent years, several countries have made high-profile statements by burning or crushing ivory.

In January, the Chinese government pulverized six tons of ivory in Dongguan, and Denver, Colorado, was the site of a highly publicized crush of six tons of confiscated ivory last November. The central African country of Gabon has also set its ivory aflame. (Related: "Massive Pile of Elephant Ivory Burned in Gabon—A First.")

But Patrick Bergin, head of the nonprofit group African Wildlife Foundation, said Hong Kong's action is "extraordinary" because of the centuries-old culture of ivory worship there.

Bergin said that Hong Kong's public destruction will discourage ivory collectors from going after more ivory. (See pictures of the "ivory wars" in National Geographic magazine.)

"Hong Kong, as a major destination and transit hub for trafficked ivory, will soon join that growing list of leaders that are placing a higher value on a living elephant than pieces of a dead one."

Follow Christine Dell'Amore on Twitter and Google+.

21 comments
Gary Bridger
Gary Bridger

Is this going to save the Elephant, ?  I think not, More so put the owning of such items up in price, . The ivory has now made the deaths of those Elephants pointless. What they should have done , is to flood the market , sold the ivory off at a  low price, put the money to fund the stopping of poachers, And in force whorl law, Any one harming an Elephant for its tusks or any other endangered animal for gain, will be Shot. 

cdnred
cdnred

I'm thinking like others here that this is not the best solution but to sell the ivory then these elephants would have died for no reason and it wouldn't have put a stop to it. They're merely being killed for the ivory and the meat goes to waste. What if the conservationists were to tranquilize elephants as the tusks were developing, then cut off the tusks. I know it sounds cruel to remove the tusks of elephants but they at least that might put a stop to it and they're still living.  

jhan db
jhan db

As much as I do NOT condone the killing of elephants for their ivory, I believe the destruction of ivory makes the death of these elephants even more wasteful!  The ivory could be put to good use by the proper wildlife organizations to make items to be sold.  The money from these sales could then be used by these organizations to help safeguard these & other endangered animals.

Denas Streikus
Denas Streikus

I would suggest just to sell them and use the money to save elephants

Brittany Sievenpiper
Brittany Sievenpiper

Ok, so they are going to burn it all when they could send these to different museums and zoos to make people aware of how serious the problem is??? Why burn them when you can raise awareness and maybe make a difference? Those animals died so that person could get the ivory so instead of raising awareness, those animals are going to have died in vain. There will be absolutely no reason for their deaths if these are burned...

Brahmam Meka
Brahmam Meka

How can it save animals? anyway it"s  an action of discouraging killing of animals.

winston smith
winston smith

Great start.  Need to burn the poachers.  Now, if Japan and other countries would outlaw overfishing, it would be a giant leap for mankind.  Also, Japan kills millions of sharks every year for their fins for fin soup.  Disgusting.  

Robyn Hodgkiss
Robyn Hodgkiss

Why not do a huge Charity Auction Campaign. Put these pieces, whole or sculpted, into an ethical auction. The money raised from the pieces should be put into anti-poaching, protection of elephants, reserves, legal costs ect. Stamp or engrave it with an ethical message, akin to a potters mark, so that everybody knows you own that piece because you have supported the cause. 

I know it seems kind of counterproductive selling the produce from this trade to stop the trade, but i cant help feeling that burning them is much more of a waste. Instead of the money going to illegal poachers, it goes into the hands of those trying to stop it. How much ivory does one man need? If an eccentric millionaire always wanted one for his 'collection', this is a rare chance to own a piece and do some good.

To stop poaching we need global awareness, the full force of the law, people to protect the animals and enforce the laws and treatment for injured and endangered elephants and all of this costs money. The bones of their ancestors could help save future generations of elephants, or they could be wasted and the fight begins at square one.


Sumwun Udontno
Sumwun Udontno

I am all for saving the animals, but isn't it just a double waste to burn ivory that those poor animals already sacrificed?  Seems dumb unless it will actually prevent future slaughter - but I highly doubt burning ivory will help.  If anything it will make it bring a higher premium.

Bryn Darmody
Bryn Darmody

At least this is progress. it is not going to stop over night, but by burning it it can no longer be on the market at all. No one will have access to that ivory, no one deserves to have that as a trophy. This is an amazing step. 

Bastiaan Maijen
Bastiaan Maijen

thats just wrong to waste the good ivory, set it to good use, auction sell it LEGALIZING the seized ivory, use the earnings to conserve the elephants , dont just waste the good ivory this will only raise demand witch raises the price witch raises the incentive to poach more ivory , put the seized ivory on the market so price of ivory drops when its no longer worth the trouble to poach ivory cause of risk to payment % it will stop or at least lessen

peripodean Bruce
peripodean Bruce

Die in pain and in vain poor elephants, so humans can burn your expensive remains and try in vain to prevent it again.

peripodean Bruce
peripodean Bruce

Die in pain and in vain poor elephants, so humans can burn your expensive remains and try in vain to prevent it again.

jose ramos
jose ramos

GOVERMENT MUST CRUSCH OR BURN PEOPLE WHO TRAFFIC WITH IVORY.

BECAUSE THEY IS GOING CONTINUED DOING..SAVE THE ELEPHANTS AT HOME

Munkhtur E.
Munkhtur E.

Great to hear HK is making a progress in protecting wildlife. Congrats!!! 

Alanna Parker
Alanna Parker

What a great idea these poor animals that were slaughtered by soulless people could be used to help the ones that are left!

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