TRAFFIC recommends rapid phase out of local ivory trade in Hong Kong
Hong Kong, 5th June 2017—TRAFFIC has written to the Hong Kong Legislative Council’s Panel on Environmental Affairs in support of proposals to phase out domestic ivory trade in the city—although expressing concern over the proposed five years it will take—and to raise penalties for those convicted of wildlife crime.
The Panel on Environmental Affairs had earlier called for public comments ahead of discussions by the Legislative Council on 14th June on a Bill to amend Hong Kong’s law for implementing provisions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Hong Kong Government is proposing to phase out the city’s domestic ivory trade over the next five years, with bans on cross-border ivory trade three months after the law takes effect.
Neighbouring mainland China has announced it will end domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017 and TRAFFIC believes the longer time-frame proposed by Hong Kong could lead to illegal movements of ivory into and out of the city.
TRAFFIC’s letter also expresses concern over the clear violations of Hong Kong’s ivory trade regulations during ivory market surveys carried out in the city during 2015 and 2016. They include some 59 percent of traders surveyed failing to display appropriate ivory possession licences, and over a third that encouraged buyers to take ivory out of the city without permits. There are also indications that illegal ivory has been laundered into the marketplace, as evidenced by the carbon 14 dating of ivory chopsticks in a recent court case. Such violations point to the inadequacy of the current set of regulations on the ivory trade, and would suggest that Hong Kong is ill-equipped to tackle illegal ivory trade without a radical regulatory change.
The letter also draws attention to Hong Kong’s role as an international ivory trafficking hub and its labelling as a “country/territory of primary concern” in the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) analysis presented to the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) in 2016.
Also highlighted are the current low maximum penalties for commercial ivory trafficking—just two years in jail, although sentences have been far more lenient, with eight months the longest imposed to date. TRAFFIC believe these should be raised to deter and prevent ivory smuggling.
“TRAFFIC hopes that next week's discussions in the Hong Kong Legislative Council will pave the way for decisions that are in the best interests of the city and elephant conservation,” said Dr. Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East and South Asia.
The full text of TRAFFIC’s submission to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is available here.