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Hong Kong destroys ivory stockpile

Hong Kong has started incinerating its stockpile of confiscated ivory to show it is serious about cracking down on an illegal wildlife trade that is devastating Africa's elephant population.

Authorities destroyed the first batch by burning elephant tusks and carved ivory figurines and bracelets in a rotary kiln.

Destroying the 28-ton stockpile, which is one of the world's largest, is expected to take until mid-2015.

The ash left after incineration will be mixed with cement and lime and dumped in landfill. About 1.6 tons of ivory will be kept for educational or scientific purposes.

The destruction follows similar initiatives in the past year by Belgium, France, China, the US and the Philippines.

Hong Kong's stockpile has bulged as customs agents have intercepted a series of big shipments of smuggled ivory in recent years, which were believed to be heading to mainland China where demand is growing because of rising incomes.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates poachers kill 35,000 elephants a year for their tusks, risking the animal's extinction in the wild.

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