The Hong Kong Legislative Council this week approved a ban on the domestic ivory trade, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. The ban includes no compensation by 2021 and an increase in the maximum penalty for wildlife crime offenses to 10 years.
WWF officials said they welcome the new legislation.
“A ban on ivory sales with heavier penalties in Hong Kong shows a clear commitment towards the future of African elephants. This will help reverse the trend of elephant poaching and illegal ivory trafficking.” said Cheryl Lo, Manager, Wildlife Crime. Hong Kong is the largest ivory city market in the world and a major transit hub for illegal wildlife trade due to low fines and sentences for traffickers and zero prosecutions of the criminal kingpins.
China closed its legal ivory market at the end of 2017. Ivory trade in the country is now illegal, which may increase Hong Kong’s position as a preferred market for illegal ivory under the cover of remaining legal traders. The Hong Kong ban will help curb this trend. There is also evidence that domestic ivory markets in Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Japan, and Myanmar are increasingly catering to visitors from China. Gavin Edwards, Conservation Director said, “This is the time to increase rather than to relax our efforts. With stronger sentences in Hong Kong, law enforcement should take a greater role in joint efforts to investigate and prosecute criminal wildlife syndicates. WWF calls on governments across Asia to follow China and Hong Kong’s lead and close their ivory markets.”
Since 2015, WWF-Hong Kong has campaigned for a ban on the ivory trade to ensure wildlife crime is considered a serious crime. WWF’s report, “The Hard Truth,” revealed several legal loopholes in Hong Kong’s ivory regulations and published a feasibility study on the ban of Hong Kong’s ivory trade in 2016. Through these in-depth studies in Hong Kong and various community engagement campaigns, the WWF received enormous public support with 91,643 Hong Kong residents signing a petition in support of a ban. In response to calls from WWF and other NGOs, the government moved forward with the proposed five-year timetable to end the domestic ivory trade.