Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Hong Kong follows China, bans ivory trade

Nellie Chapman | 01 February, 2018, 18:14

The ivory trade has been banned in most of the world since 1990 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which Hong Kong and all but a handful of countries have agreed to honor.

"Today is a great day for elephants", said Alex Hofford, a campaigner with WildAid Hong Kong, in a statement.

"Shutting down this massive ivory market has thrown a lifeline to elephants", said Bert Wander of global advocacy group Avaaz, as reported by The Guardian. And finally, traders will be obliged to dispose of their stock by 2021.

A Hong Kong government-led operation in past year found two ivory traders had sold chopsticks made from ivory obtained after the 1990 ban. Traders were able to deal in new ivory alongside the older ivory, as evidenced by the 7.2 tons (6.5 metric tons) of elephant tusks discovered by Hong Kong customs officers in a shipment last July.

Hong Kong's new law also increases penalties (pdf, p. 6) for offenders.

Pressure by the worldwide community and NGOs eventually lead to the country voting for a full ban on the sales of ivory.

So Chi-keung, president of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ivory Manufacturers Association, holding a petition letter to the government, urging the protection of their "legal property" whilst still preserving elephants.

An April report by wildlife trade monitoring NGO Traffic found that a third of ivory traders in Hong Kong encouraged their customers to smuggle ivory out of the city onto the Chinese mainland without export permits.

China implemented a near-total ivory ban on January 1, but conservation groups have expressed concern that this could merely cause the trade to relocate itself to the special administrative region.

Activists fear the delayed timeline could be exploited and may be too late for the African elephant that continues to be poached in high numbers.

Ivory sales will be phased out gradually in Hong Kong, stopping completely in 2021.

China is mainly blamed for the slaughter of almost 30,000 African elephants every year by poachers.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for the bill that will abolish the trade by 2021, following on the heels of China's complete ban on ivory sales that went into effect at the end of a year ago.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, poaching has seen the African elephant population fall by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals.