Plan ap­proved for to­tal ban on HK’s ivory trade

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SYLVIA CHANG in Hong Kong sylvia@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day ap­proved a plan to phase out the lo­cal ivory trade and ul­ti­mately im­pose a to­tal ban on all ivory used for com­mer­cial pur­poses by the end of 2021.

Amend­ments to the Pro­tec­tion of En­dan­gered Species of An­i­mals and Plants Or­di­nance are now be­ing pre­pared and will be sub­mit­ted to the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil for en­act­ment in the first half of 2017.

The in­ter­na­tional im­port and re-ex­port of ivory has been vir­tu­ally banned since 1990, but buy­ing and sell­ing ivory items was still al­lowed within Hong Kong’s mar­ket.

A to­tal ban in the city tar­gets the lo­cal trade. Ivory used for the pur­poses of sci­en­tific stud­ies, ed­u­ca­tion, law en­force­ment and train­ing are ex­cluded from the ban, ac­cord­ing to the plan.

The plan, which com­prises three stages, will give a fiveyear grace pe­riod to lo­cal traders. By the end of 2021, all li­censes for the ivory trade will ex­pire.

The de­ci­sion to outlaw the lo­cal ivory trade is a clear mes­sage by the gov­ern­ment on the need to pro­tect ele­phants in Africa and stop the il­le­gal poach­ing of en­dan­gered species, ex­plained Sec­re­tary for the En­vi­ron­ment Wong Kam-sing.

“Hong Kong has a duty to be part of the in­ter­na­tional ef­forts and prac­tices in en­hanc­ing pro­tec­tion for ele­phants,” he said.

Si­mon Pong, an ivory trader since 1976, ap­plauded the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to pro­tect ele­phants. He said most ivory traders in Hong Kong have trans­ferred their ivory business to jewels, mam­moth ivory or other ob­jects. The re­main­ing ivory stock­pile — about 77 tons and held by about 370 traders — will hardly be sold out within five years.

This might give rise to more poach­ing, Pong pre­dicted. This was be­cause il­le­gal ivory could be mixed into the stock­pile al­lowed for trad­ing in the next five years as the dead­line ap­proaches. “The gov­ern­ment should outlaw the trade im­me­di­ately if they want a full ban,” he said.

But Di­rec­tor of Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and Con­ser­va­tion Le­ung Siu-fai ex­plained that un­der cur­rent laws and mea­sures, the gov­ern­ment has no au­thor­ity to re­voke li­censes of ivory traders ear­lier. He said the five-year plan was “the most timely and speedy way to ban the lo­cal ivory trade”.

Le­ung is con­fi­dent a fiveyear pe­riod is enough for traders to deal with the re­main­ing ivory stocks.

But as Pong noted, un­less the gov­ern­ment helps build a positive im­age of the le­gal mar­ket in the next five years, stock­piles will re­main. He es­ti­mated the stock­pile to be worth about HK$1 bil­lion at present.

No plans have been made yet to pur­chase back ivory or to of­fer com­pen­sa­tion to traders, ac­cord­ing to the pro­posal.

The first step in the plan is to ban the im­port and re-ex­port of all ele­phant hunt­ing tro­phies and the re­main­ing post-1975 ivory items.

The im­port and re-ex­port of pre-1975 ivory will be banned in the sec­ond step, which takes ef­fect three months af­ter the ban on post1975 ivories be­gins. The sec­ond phase will also en­act li­cens­ing con­trols on this ivory.

The third step will outlaw the sales of all com­mer­cial-use ivory.

Apart from the plan to phase out the lo­cal ivory mar­ket, the gov­ern­ment will also in­crease penal­ties for any vi­o­la­tions.

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