To the point
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.