Plan approved for total ban on HK’s ivory trade
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.