To the point

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF WRITER

The SAR gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day an­nounced a three-step plan to im­pose a to­tal ban on the ivory trade in Hong Kong by 2021. The move came as a sig­nal to the world of the city’s com­mit­ment to sup­port in­ter­na­tional ef­forts in sav­ing the en­dan­gered African and Asian ele­phants. It is also a trib­ute to China’s ef­forts in this re­spect.

The African ele­phant pop­u­la­tion is dwin­dling rapidly. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Na­tional Ge­o­graphic aerial sur­vey, at least 144,000 ele­phants roam­ing the African sa­vanna were lost to ivory poach­ing and habi­tat de­struc­tion in less than a decade. It is said that if noth­ing is done about this, the largest an­i­mal species on land will be func­tion­ally ex­tinct within two decades given their present rate of pop­u­la­tion de­cline.

The im­port and ex­port of ivory, a pre­cious ma­te­rial thought to bring good luck, has been banned glob­ally since 1989 af­ter the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora came into ef­fect in 1975. Hong Kong, how­ever, per­mits the cir­cu­la­tion of ivory in the lo­cal mar­ket and the im­port­ing of pre-1975 ivory.

The new plan to phase out the lo­cal ivory trade will serve to show the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that Hong Kong not only cares about trade and com­merce, it is also a re­spon­si­ble stake­holder that is very will­ing to play an ac­tive part in pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment of the planet we all live on. We need to shake off our rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a cen­ter for trad­ing in ivory and other prod­ucts ob­tained by slaugh­ter­ing en­dan­gered species.

On a na­tional level, the SAR’s lat­est an­nounce­ment dove­tails with the coun­try’s con­ser­va­tion ef­forts. In Septem­ber 2015, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping reached an agree­ment with Wash­ing­ton on “nearly com­plete bans” on the im­port and ex­port of ivory. This agree­ment was praised as the most sig­nif­i­cant step yet in ef­forts to shut down an in­dus­try which threat­ens en­dan­gered species. Since then the coun­try has put into ac­tion mea­sures to honor the agree­ment. Now Hong Kong has gone one step fur­ther by set­ting a timetable for it­self in such an ad­mirable ven­ture.

The fact that this plan to leg­is­late against the ivory trade — which Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun-ying al­ready promised in his Jan­uary Pol­icy Ad­dress — will al­low a grace pe­riod for the in­dus­try to dis­pose of its stocks and for its mem­bers to switch to other in­dus­tries shows that the pro­posal is well thought out and highly prac­ti­ca­ble.

Let’s hope our law­mak­ers will co­op­er­ate in the leg­isla­tive process so fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will be able to see real ele­phants roam­ing in the wild and not just in zoos or in books and videos.

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