Earlier this month, the Chinese government destroyed more than six tons of confiscated ivory held in government stockpiles, signaling the new resolve of the People’s Republic of China to crack down on the illegal ivory trade and to reduce ivory consumption. On January 23, the Hong Kong Government’s Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) decided that it will destroy 28 tons of ivory stockpiles from past seizures—the largest cache of seized ivory to be destroyed to date, anywhere in the world. This action signals that the fight against the ivory trade is global, and it’s finding increasing favor in critical parts of Asia, among consumers and government officials.
More than 46,000 supporters of our global affiliate, Humane Society International, responded to our call to support the Hong Kong ivory destruction. HSI president and CEO Dr. Andrew Rowan wrote to the ESAC, laying out reasons in support of the destruction. HSI has met and communicated with AFCD and ESAC as well as collaborated closely with advocates of Hong Kong for Elephants. This campaign, coordinated with the work of local advocates during the past year, helped produce the government’s January 23 decision.
Elephant poaching has reached an unprecedented level. Last year poachers massacred at least 35,000 African elephants. With less than half a million elephants left in the wild in Africa, if this killing rate persists, African elephants could be extinct in two decades. Poachers poisoned or shot elephants with machine guns, and hacked off the tusks of elephants while the animals were still alive. This slaughter of elephants, for jewelry, trinkets, or statuettes – conducted in many cases by the Janjaweed, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Al-Shabaab, and other terrorist groups — is unconscionable, and it is robbing African nations of the value that live elephants would bring to these nations in the form of wildlife tourism for decades.
Reducing consumer demand for ivory reduces the incentive for poachers to massacre elephants and for traffickers to engage in illegal ivory trade. Destroying stockpiles of seized ivory, as the recent examples of the U.S. and China have demonstrated, is a great way to raise awareness about the elephant poaching crisis and reminds current and potential buyers to eschew ivory. So many people don’t connect their purchase of ivory with the epidemic of poaching, and we are reminding people that you can draw a straight line from the purchase of this product to the killing of elephants in their native habitats.
HSI will continue our public education programs with local partner groups in China and Hong Kong on elephant protection as well as work in concert with relevant government officials and agencies to implement stronger laws to reduce ivory consumption. Here in the U.S., as the second largest market in the world for ivory, there is work to be done. HSUS and HSI are working with lawmakers in Hawaii and New York to ban the sale of ivory to reduce the U.S. prominent role in the cruel ivory trade. We’re likely to expand that effort to other states, toward the goal of creating no safe haven in any part of the world for this blood trade in ivory.