27 October 2016
Elephant tusks and ivory cut pieces seized by customs officers at the airport. Photo: GovHK
Elephant tusks and ivory cut pieces seized by customs officers at the airport. Photo: GovHK

Hong Kong rejects full ban on ivory trade amid WWF call

Hong Kong has no plans to impose a full-scale ban on ivory trade despite calls from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Responding to a WWF report on the issue, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said there is no international covenant that forbids local ivory trade, and all of the ivory registered in the city is imported through legal channels, Ming Pao Daily reported on Tuesday.

In its report entitled The Hard Truth released on Monday, the WWF Hong Kong branch listed several weaknesses in the regulation of Hong Kong’s ivory market, including links to illegal activities such as the smuggling of ivory from poached elephants in Africa and the laundering illegal ivory with the city’s legal stock.

The WWF quoted ivory traders as saying that local buyers can easily make a purchase order for ivory directly smuggled from Africa.

As a result, Hong Kong could be directly encouraging the poaching of elephants in Africa.

The conservation group asked the government to impose a complete ban on ivory sales and processing.

Although Hong Kong has banned the importation of ivory since 1989, Cheryl Lo, senior wildlife crime officer of WWF-Hong Kong, said up to 110 metric tons of ivory is held in the city for legal sale with no sign that the stockpile is decreasing over the past four years.

However, she said, the fact that 30,800 pieces of ivory products were sold in Hong Kong last year suggested some people passed off smuggled ivory as legal products before selling them.

The government believes that a more effective solution than a ban on ivory trade is enhancing law enforcement. 

The AFCD said it plans to conduct thorough checks on all licensed ivory storage facilities, enhance inspection and deploy detection dogs at border checkpoints, and vigorously implement an anti-fake label system.

Customs officers at the Hong Kong International Airport on Sunday intercepted two air parcels from Zimbabwe containing a combined 51 kilos of suspected ivory cut pieces worth about HK$510,000 (US$65,805).

This was the second interception of its kind since Sept. 2, when a total of 24 kilos of suspected ivory cut pieces, worth about US$240,000, were seized from an inbound air parcel.

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