20/01/2014 11:57 GMT | Updated 22/03/2014 05:59 GMT

Hong Kong Should Destroy Its Ivory Stockpile

When China destroyed its 6.1 ton ivory stockpile on 6 January, conservationists' eyes turned to Hong Kong to be next.

According to the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, from 2003 to 2013, the Hong Kong government has seized approximately 33,369 kg of illegal ivory, widely thought to be one of the largest ivory stockpiles in the world. As the jurisdiction is a major crossroads in the trade, most of these products were likely destined for markets in mainland China or Southeast Asia.

China's ivory stockpile destruction was significant because it is the world's largest ivory marketplace. Ivory carving and sales are legal in China and this has provided a cover for the trade there.

An estimated 30,000 African elephants were illegally killed last year for their tusks; at this rate, the remaining 400,000 African elephants will be wiped out in two decades.

Most ivory shipments detected and seized in recent years were destined for China. China's stockpile destruction has helped to inform the Chinese public about the reasons not to purchase ivory. It also made clear China's determination to deter the illegal activity and its resolve to join the global effort to combat trafficking.

Some say that destroying these stockpiles is wasteful; but, in the case of Hong Kong's stockpile, the ivory was illegally acquired, bought, sold or transported. Like other confiscated products such as drugs, it has no legitimate market value because it is illegal. In fact, sustaining the stockpile is wasteful because it must be kept in a secure facility.

Some also say that destroying stockpiles will stimulate the black market; but this ivory has already been taken off the market. Indeed: destroying ivory stock will have the opposite effect on the black market by raising awareness about the reasons not to buy ivory, thus reducing demand and undermining the very thing that drives black markets.

On 23 January, the Hong Kong government will be holding a meeting to discuss the possibility of joining China, the U.S., the Philippines, Kenya and Gabon all of which have destroyed their government-held stockpiles. By following their lead, Hong Kong can take its seat at the table of global leadership that is needed to stop the elephant poaching crisis that is, literally, driving elephants to extinction.

Take action and urge the Hong Kong government to destroy the ivory stockpile