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LCQ22: Disposal of forfeited ivory in government stockpile

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (March 19):


     At its meeting in January this year, the Endangered Species Advisory Committee agreed in principle to the proposal of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to dispose of the confiscated ivory in the government stockpile by incineration. AFCD has indicated that apart from retaining a small amount of ivory for uses permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, it will dispose of the ivory in batches starting from the first half of this year and all the ivory is expected to be disposed of within one to two years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the specific method and procedure for the incineration of the ivory, as well as the date of and the disposal quantity for each incineration operation;

(2) whether it has plans to, prior to the disposal of the ivory, employ genetic analysis technology to identify the grades, elephant species and places of origin of such ivory, and publish the results of the identification tests, so that Hong Kong will set an example for Mainland China and the Southeast Asian region in combating illegal ivory trade; if it has such plans, of the work schedule; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether AFCD had conducted studies on the most appropriate method for ivory disposal before proposing to dispose of the ivory by incineration; if it had, of the results; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) whether it has plans to make (i) the disposal of smuggled ivory all by incineration and (ii) the conduct of identification tests on the ivory prior to disposal, the standard procedure for handling confiscated ivory; if it has such plans, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(1) and (4) (i) The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has decided to dispose forfeited ivory in the government stockpile by incineration. There will be pre-treatment by cutting ivory tusks into smaller pieces, followed by incineration at high temperature at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC). Apart from retaining a small amount of ivory for potential uses permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), all the forfeited ivory stockpile (about 28 tonnes) will be disposed of by incineration in batches. In future, forfeited ivory would be similarly disposed of on a regular basis. The AFCD is preparing for the first ivory disposal to be carried out in the first half of this year, followed by disposal of around 3 tonnes of ivory per month. The disposal of ivory stockpile will be completed in about one to two years.

(2) and (4) (ii) In collaboration with an overseas forensic laboratory, the AFCD has provided some samples of ivory scraps from recent important ivory seizures to the laboratory for DNA testing. Results of such scientific studies would help enforcement agencies combat poaching of elephants and the wider enforcement community track down the chain of illicit activities. The AFCD would continue such testing on need basis. In addition, in accordance with the CITES guidelines, the AFCD would submit reports on ivory seizures, include the type and amount of ivory, places of origin/export countries of such ivory and other relevant information, to the CITES Secretariat, so as to assist in combating illegal ivory trade internationally.

(3) On the disposal of forfeited ivory, the AFCD strictly adheres to the CITES principles. The AFCD has explored various methods of destruction, including trial incineration at the CWTC in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Department. The results of the trial showed that ivory could be completely destroyed at high temperature. The AFCD has also conducted trials on other methods like stabilisation (in which the ivory was first cut into short pieces which was then mixed with cement or sludge. The resulting mixture was then allowed to solidify before dumping at landfill) and crushing by mechanic means. Under the latter two methods (i.e. stabilisation and mechanical crushing), the treated ivory is not completely destroyed through the process and may still have economical value, hence those two methods are not considered to be proper ways for disposal. Incineration is also used internationally to dispose of forfeited ivory. To prevent the treated ivory pieces from further use, the AFCD considers it more appropriate and effective to dispose of the forfeited ivory by incineration.

Ends/Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:33


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