Local legislators are correct in their claim that the Hong Kong government is not doing enough to stop the flow of illegal ivory through our borders (“Eyes on HK to step up ivory fight”, South China Morning Post, 5 April 2015). Hong Kong’s lax attitude to ivory sales has played a significant role in bringing the African elephant population to the lowest numbers in history. China’s recent ban on the import of ivory passes the buck firmly back to Hong Kong to develop effective controls on the trade. In Hong Kong, authorities have long turned a blind eye to the local unethical and unsustainable trade in so-called “legal” ivory. Local licences permit Hong Kong traders to sell ivory from their stockpiles of “legal” ivory obtained before the CITES ban of 1989. Annual records provided by the traders themselves claim their pre-1989 stockpiles are not diminishing, despite the popularity of ivory with mainland visitors and its increasing value as a commodity. While elephant populations dwindle, it is not surprising to find that ivory stocks remain stable in local shops. Effective action needs to be taken to stop the sale of all ivory in Hong Kong (no matter when it is claimed to have been harvested) and significant gaol terms imposed by the judiciary to deter smugglers of endangered species and their derivatives. Written by Amanda Whitfort.
Keep up the pressure, Amanda!