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Destruction of confiscated ivory begins today (with photos)

     The phased disposal of confiscated ivory was started with the incineration of 1 tonne of ivory in the Government stockpile at a ceremony held at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre in Tsing Yi today (May 15).

     Speaking at the launching ceremony for the destruction of confiscated ivory, the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, said that the incineration of ivory sends an unequivocal message, both locally and internationally, that Hong Kong is determined to curb illicit trade in ivory.

     Over the years, a significant quantity of ivory has been confiscated during enforcement actions. In disposing of this ivory, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), which is the Management Authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Hong Kong, adheres strictly to the CITES principles in the use of forfeited ivory. A portion of the ivory stockpile has been donated mainly to schools, museums and overseas institutes for conservation, scientific, education and training purposes.

     However, there is a need to tell the world that Hong Kong is also making an effort to contribute to the elimination of illegal poaching of elephants, noted Mr Wong.

     Mr Wong said, "With the support of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee, we shall commence disposal of the confiscated ivory in the government stockpile by incineration.

     "Apart from retaining a very small amount of ivory for potential uses permitted under CITES, all of the forfeited ivory stockpile, about 28 tonnes, will be disposed of by incineration in phases."

     The disposal is expected to be complete by mid-2015. In future, forfeited ivory that comes under the custody of the AFCD will be disposed of by incineration on a regular basis.

     Incineration is considered the most appropriate and effective means of disposal because ivory can be completely destroyed at high temperature and that prevents further use of the ivory.

     All species of elephants were listed in CITES Appendix I in 1990. Since then, the international commercial trade in elephant ivory has been prohibited except under specific and stringent circumstances permitted under CITES.

     Use of specimens of endangered species for scientific, enforcement, identification and education purposes is allowed under the CITES guidelines. If use for such purposes is not practicable, keeping the specimens in storage or disposal by destruction is also permitted.

     In Hong Kong, trade in ivory is controlled in accordance with CITES through local legislation under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). Any person breaching the law would face a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to two years and a fine up to $5 million once convicted.

     The AFCD will continue to work closely with the local law enforcement agencies and the parties to CITES in combating illegal trade in ivory.

     To keep up the momentum, the AFCD will step up education and publicity efforts with a view to enhancing the public awareness of conservation of endangered species and the public knowledge of relevant legislation.

Ends/Thursday, May 15, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:10


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