Ivory trade
China is the world's biggest market for ivory, accounting for about 70% of global demand.Reuters

Nearly 30 tonnes of ivory will be destroyed in Hong Kong over the year, to send a strong signal to poachers on the future of the trade in China.

Alex Hofford, co-founder of Hong Kong for Elephants and a consultant for WildAid, applauded the drastic measure:

"It's a very big deal. The Hong Kong government, by committing to destroy the ivory in January and actually doing it today, is sending a really strong signal to traders and consumers in Hong Kong and China and around the world that the government is no longer tolerating the illegal ivory trade."

Thirty three tonnes of illegal ivory was confiscated between 2000 and 2013, while three major seizures were made in the past year.

Six tonnes of the stockpile of ivory was confiscated en route to Hong Kong, and another three tonnes was intercepted when it was being illegally transported across the city border, according to a wildlife trade watchdog Traffic.

"It means the ivory at one point was either sitting in a container in Hong Kong from somewhere else or sourced from a market in Hong Kong," Dr Yannick Kuehl, Traffic's regional director told South China Morning Post.

To Date, nine countries have publicly destroyed ivory including US, China, Kenya, and Zambia. But the stockpile of ivory kept apart for burning in Hong Kong is probably the largest destruction of ivory in history.

Environmental groups say that Hong Kong is world's major transit hub for illegal ivory that makes its way in the mainland China.

China accounts for about 70% of global demand of illegal ivory, and had caused butchering of 100 elephants per day in 2012, according to WWF estimates.

The country's enthusiastic demand for ivory stems from deep-rooted culture and traditions of the country. Ivory carvings have long been cherished as status symbols in China, while crushed ivory powder is used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

Animal rights activists and environmentalists launched massive campaigns to sensitize the public on the brutality elephants have to suffer for their tusks.

Three leading retailers in Hong Kong decided not to sell ivory products. Earlier this year, China's business leaders vowed not to not to purchase, process or gift ivory products.

"Our company realized the trend of protecting endangered species in the society; we respect and agree with the will of the general public to protect these animals," said Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium, which operates 18 stores in Hong Kong.