Skip to main content

Hong Kong holds world's largest ivory burn

By Arshiya Khullar, for CNN
updated 4:14 AM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
Hong Kong has started burning over 28 tons of seized ivory, a process that will take more than one year. Hong Kong has started burning over 28 tons of seized ivory, a process that will take more than one year.
HIDE CAPTION
Hong Kong burns illegal ivory
Hong Kong burns illegal ivory
Hong Kong burns illegal ivory
Hong Kong burns illegal ivory
Hong Kong burns illegal ivory
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hong Kong burned one ton of the 28-ton stockpile of ivory the government has seized in the last few years
  • The government crushed and incinerated elephant tusks
  • It will take a year to destroy stock of confiscated ivory, according to government officials

Hong Kong (CNN) -- When Hong Kong announced the start of the world's largest ivory destruction project, one would expect a massive pyre, with flames engulfing the tusks.

That did not happen.

Instead, the tusk fragments were crushed into small chunks, placed in fiber drums and incinerated at a temperature over 1,800 degree Fahrenheit at a waste treatment center.

The process may have been uninspiring, but it signals a significant move by one of the world's largest markets for smuggled ivory to curb wildlife trade. The ceremonial burning marked the first stage of the government's plans to destroy the 28-ton stockpile of ivory it has confiscated over the years.

Activist battles illegal ivory trade
Chad's bloody ivory trade
Inside the illegal wildlife trade

Ivory bracelets and carved figurines were incinerated along with elephant tusks. The fine dark grey ash left after incineration will be later dumped into a landfill. The government expects to finish destroying the entire stockpile by the middle of next year. Around one metric ton will be kept aside for educational or scientific purposes such as museum displays, according to Hong Kong government officials.

Hong Kong follows recent initiatives by several countries, including France, Philippines and the U.S. to crackdown on ivory trade. In January, over six tons of illegal ivory was chipped and ground into powder in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The top business leaders in China have also pledged not to purchase or gift ivory.

After experimenting with several methods, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation department decided to incinerate the ivory to remove any risk of their re-entry into the black market. Burning doesn't completely destroy the ivory, it only chars the exterior. Hammering it into small pieces and burning it at high temperatures are to ensure total obliteration.

Speaking at the event, John E. Scanlon, secretary-general of Geneva-based CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), an international wildlife protection treaty, said that the destruction "does not negate the cultural heritage of historic ivory carvings, nor will in itself put an end to the illegal trade."

The effort is expected to gradually reduce the supply of ivory. In a bid to reduce its availability, three of the Hong Kong's largest ivory retailers announced earlier this month that they would no longer sell ivory products.

But, conservationists say there is also a need to curb consumers' growing appetite for ivory. To reduce demand, many groups such as the World Wildlife Fund have been urging the government to legislate a permanent ban on ivory sales.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT