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This Day In Ivory: Poaching In South Africa, Incinerating In Hong Kong
May 16, 2014
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Elephants in Kruger National Park, South Africa. (Photo: AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

Yesterday, South Africa recorded its first elephant poaching in more than a decade.

Rangers in Kruger National Park discovered a dead bull elephant with tusks hacked off — a sign, park authorities said, that the elephant was killed solely for its tusks.

The park is currently home to about 16,700 elephants. For years, poachers haven't been a problem in the area, at least when it comes to elephants. The park is even patrolled by the South African army, whose main focus has been on curbing the killing of rhinos, since some 245 of the species have been killed in Kruger since the beginning of the year. Elephants, however, rarely suffer similar fates in South Africa (although they do in the rest of the continent).

"If we compare the situation in Africa our concentration has been on rhinos. We need to now refocus our attention," South African National Parks spokesperson Reynold Thakuli said.

There is still huge demand for ivory, especially in East Asia, where a single rhino horn can cost as much as $70,000 on the black market.

Of course, some countries are trying to curb ivory consumption by destroying their stockpiles. This week, Hong Kong became the latest to stage a mass pulverizing of its ivory.


Part of Hong Kong's ivory stockpile, ready for demolition. (Photo:

The city-state announced it would be destroying some 29.6 tonnes of ivory. Most of that stockpile was confiscated at the border since the government started cracking down in 2003. Hong Kong is an important hub for illegal ivory entering China, and despite international condemnation, the illegal ivory trade is booming — last year alone, Hong Kong seized more than eight tonnes of ivory presumed to be en route to China.

The process began yesterday at a waste treatment centre, where tusks were broken down into small pieces and fed into an incinerator. It's expected that getting rid of the entire stockpile will take until the middle of next year. Hong Kong authorities also pledged to continue destroying all confiscated ivory that makes its way into the city-state.

"Today's ceremony sends a loud and clear message to both the local and the international community that the Hong Kong government is determined to curb illegal trade in elephant ivory,"Hong Kong's environment secretary Wong Kam-sing told reporters. "We hope curbing illegal trade in ivory will help stop illegal poaching of elephants."

This is the latest in a series of ivory destruction events around the world. In January, China crushed more than six tonnes in an effort to discourage illegal trade. And in April, Belgium crushed about 1.7 tonnes. A global ban on the ivory trade has been in effect since 1989, but many experts estimate that about 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks.

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