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Hong Kong has more elephant ivory items displayed for retail sale than any other surveyed cities in the world, according to a new report released today by Save the Elephants. 72 retail outlets were recently surveyed in the main tourist areas in Hong Kong. These outlets were found to be carrying a total of 30,856 ivory items for sale.
Jewellery was the most popular ivory item, accounting for 57 per cent of the items on sale, while the next in number were small figurines (31 per cent). Both items are generally small and easy to transport. The report also found that well over 90 per cent of the ivory objects in Hong Kong are bought by mainland Chinese visitors.
Hong Kong traders claim that their ivory sales are legal, because they are drawn from a stockpile of ivory which was imported into the city before 1990 when such imports were still legal. According to the data of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the size of the stockpile is currently 111.3 tonnes. This stockpile has not declined significantly over the past four years, yet today's new market survey shows a thriving ivory business in Hong Kong. This raises the question of whether traders are using this stockpile of legal ivory as a front while they instead sell smuggled, illegal ivory to unsuspecting buyers.
Cheryl Lo, Senior Wildlife Crime Officer of WWF-Hong Kong states, “The number of elephants in Africa continues to decline at an alarming rate. Hong Kong urgently needs a firm plan and timeline to phase out the commercial processing and sale of ivory. In addition, adequate resources are needed for inspection and enforcement efforts.”
Resson Kantai Duff, Head of Awareness at Kenya-based NGO Save the Elephants also says, “At the moment we are continuously fighting a front-line conservation battle against elephant poachers and traffickers. Key to this effort will be the rejection of ivory in the most important consumer markets. Hong Kong, as one of the major destinations for ivory, should strengthen its system and enforcement efforts.”
The report, entitled Hong Kong’s Ivory – More Items for Sale than in Any Other City in the World, was based on a survey conducted in December 2014 and early January 2015. Data was collected from retail and wholesale outlets selling elephant and mammoth ivory items in the major tourist areas in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
Recent figures show that the population of African elephants has dropped from between three and five million in the early 1900s to around 500,000 today. Each year, at least 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa for their tusks to satisfy the demandfor ivory products in Asia.