Hong Kong’ ivory trade.

Action Asia - - CONTENTS -

IT’S LIKELY THAT FEW OF THE THOU­SANDS of rangers that patrol the African bush, pro­tect­ing its en­dan­gered wildlife, have ever set foot in Hong Kong. To them, this city thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away from their land would be an ab­strac­tion, save for one stone cold fact. As a global tran­ship­ment hub for ivory and other animal prod­ucts, Hong Kong is one of t he rea­sons some­thing like 100 of them are killed every year. “I am alive to­day be­cause I was lucky,” said Eric Mararv, man­ager of the Garamba Na­tional Park in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, at a press con­fer­ence or­gan­ised by WWF Hong Kong on June 6. More than a year pre­vi­ously, his patrol was at­tacked by poach­ers. He was shot through the leg; three of his men were killed. He showed a slide of 24-year-old Do Do, the only other sur­vivor from the fire­fight. “He’s my friend. He’s still alive to­day; I hope he’ll still be when I go back.” Marar v was in Hong Kong to lend his emo­tional testimony to the lobby to has­ten a to­tal ban on the ivory trade in the city. Though an in­ter­na­tional ban was placed on sales of ivory in 1990s, it was up to each lo­cal au­thor­ity around the world to de­cide what to do with any stock held by traders that pre­dated the ban. The de­mand from China, the world’s big­gest mar­ket for ivory, was just too tempt­ing and so trade has con­tin­ued in the re­gion. This was sup­pos­edly tol­er­ated for pre-1990 ivory only but lack­ing a con­ve­nient and quick way to date ivory, the ban has been eas­ily cir­cum­vented. Af­ter much foot-drag­ging, China fi­nally opted to oblit­er­ate the trade en­tirely by the end of this year. Hong Kong, how­ever, has still to act. Cur­rent pro­pos­als talk of a five-year grace pe­riod and the city’s ivory mer­chants are also push­ing for com­pen­sa­tion. This is de­spite the fact that age-tested sam­ples point out to the vast ma­jor­ity of ivory cur­rently cir­cu­lat­ing in the Hong Kong mar­ket be­ing il­le­gally ac­quired af­ter the 1990 ban. As the China ban curbs sup­ply in the coun­try, there’s a con­cern that the trade may move else­where in the re­gion if other coun­tries don’t act too. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port on global wildlife traf­fick­ing in the air trans­port sec­tor, “Fly­ing Un­der the Radar”, China saw 102 known in­ci­dents of ivory traf­fick­ing be­tween 2009 and 2016, with Thai­land in third place with 34 and Viet­nam at fifth with 23. Though the rest of South­east Asia has been less of­ten on traf­fick­ers’ radar due to China’s mon­strous de­mand, lax laws on wildlife crimes and the grow­ing num­ber of avail­able con­nect­ing flights be­tween Africa and South­east Asia poses an on­go­ing risk. For the time be­ing, lack­ing a com­plete in­ter­na­tional ban, or telling ac­tion on the part of the city’s leg­is­la­tors, all the con­cerned cit­i­zens of Hong Kong can do is help ed­u­cate its mil­lions of vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially those from the Main­land who are thought to buy up to 90% of the city’s sup­ply.

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