WWF Urges Legislators to Support Ivory Trade Phase Out A urgent ban is needed to save the world’s elephants from disappearingToday, the Legislative Council’s Panel on Environmental Affairs is discussing the government’s proposal to phase out Hong Kong’s ivory trade. The proposal includes a generous grace period of five years for ivory traders to sell their remaining ivory stock, no financial compensation for traders, and a stronger maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for future wildlife crime offenders. WWF-Hong Kong calls on our legislators to swiftly put an end to Hong Kong’s relationship with the brutal ivory trade.
Earlier today, WWF also delivered a petition to legislators and government officials signed by 91,643 Hongkongers calling for an ivory ban, along with a letter (see Appendix) detailing a number of compelling reasons to back the government’s proposal. The petition and letter were received by representatives of the Environment Bureau and legislators including Tanya Chan, the Chairman of the Panel on Environmental Affairs, Elizabeth Quat and Hui Chi Fung.
The letter explained that the international ivory trade began to be regulated in 1976 and was banned entirely in 1990. Instead of becoming part of the solution to the international problem of ivory smuggling, Hong Kong’s ivory traders instead chose to buy up elephant ivory over the past 27 years in the hopes of making large profits, despite the high risk involved with such investments. In WWF’s opinion, these traders have no legal grounds to claim compensation from the government. Furthermore, the government has provided additional time for an ivory trade transition, proposing a five-year grace period – a length of time that WWF believes is overly generous.
“With over 20,000 elephants being killed for their tusks annually and 100 rangers losing their lives every year trying to protect wildlife, it is time to end this brutal trade. Ivory traders in Hong Kong have a reputation for operating illegally, so granting compensation will send entirely the wrong message to society. No other countries, including the US and China, are providing compensation in their ivory ban legislation. If this were to occur, Hong Kong would compromise its recently-gained reputation for being a leader on curbing the illegal ivory trade”, said Gavin Edwards, Conservation Director for WWF-Hong Kong.
“The illegal wildlife trade is a serious crime controlled by organized crime syndicates. Wildlife is trafficked by gangs in the same way that drugs and weapons are smuggled. This makes it the fourth largest global illicit trade, valued at over HK$148 billion annually. Hong Kong is a favoured route for transnational criminal gangs that smuggle wildlife products into Asia, and the government must act swiftly to end this situation”, added Cheryl Lo, WWF-Hong Kong’s Senior Wildlife Crime Officer.
The Hong Kong government has proposed an increase in the penalty for wildlife crime to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. This figure is significant, reasonable and in line with international norms. The current maximum penalty in Australia, India and China are 10 years, seven years, and life imprisonment respectively.
WWF released a report called The Hard Truth in 2015 which revealed several legal loopholes in Hong Kong’s ivory market and published a Feasibility Study on the Ban of Hong Kong’s Ivory Trade in 2016 which concluded that an ban could be implemented in a shorter time frame of two years.