Hong Kong Is Key Link In Continued Illegal Ivory Trafficking

Research has shown Hong Kong has the most pieces of ivory for sale in the world, making it the weakest link in fighting the illegal killing of elephants.

While the journey may take the illegally obtained elephant tusks a few stops to arrive, much of the stolen ivory ends up in the city of Hong Kong and most is then exported to the mainland of China.

Three experts from Kenya visited Hong Kong on a fact-finding mission last year and their verdict is that the slaughter of elephants and the illegal ivory trade will not stop until Hong Kong ceases to trade in the valued product. They also established that ivory prices have doubled in the city in the last four years.

According to Esmond and Chryssee Martin and Lucy Vigne, they counted 30,856 pieces of ivory for sale in Hong Kong during their visit. This means that the city has the most ivory on sale anywhere in the world.

The experts’ findings were published in a 67-page report, “Hong Kong’s Ivory” last month by the conservation lobby Save the Elephants based in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to the report, law enforcement in Hong Kong is not only failing in its task but is also severely impeding international efforts to protect African elephants from illegal poaching.

A report on World Elephant Day on the Inquisitr, pointed out that elephant poaching and ivory trafficking is causing the death of around 30,000 African elephants every year. Now this further report shows the main destination for that illegally obtained ivory.

According to co-author Esmond Martin, of the cities they have surveyed, no other city has as many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong.

“With higher taxes on the mainland, Hong Kong has become a cheaper place to buy ivory. With 40 million people crossing the border between the territories every year and controls lax, there’s little chance of their getting caught.”

According to the South China Morning Post, the report shows that over 90 percent of clients buying from Hong Kong’s ivory shops are from mainland China, where demand remains high for the illegal product.

While it is illegal for mainland Chinese to export ivory from Hong Kong, they continue to do so. According to Save the Elephants founder, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, unless this ivory trade in Hong Kong is stopped, the territory will continue to be a major threat to the survival of the elephant species.

Daudi Sumba, vice president of Africa Wildlife Foundation agrees and calls on the international community to collaborate is the attempt to shut down this illegal trading.

“The international community needs to be more stringent in lobbying countries in the Far East to shut down their trade in ivory and rhino.”

“The world all over needs to adopt a zero-tolerance position on all illegal wildlife trade and trafficking. China and other countries in the Far East have been very receptive to lobbying so far with the recent crushes that we have seen in China and Singapore.”

While Hong Kong is the top location for ivory sales, it is also the world’s third-largest ivory smuggling hub, second only to Kenya and Tanzania. Reportedly over eight tons of ivory were seized by customs officials during 2013.

Hong Kong

According to experts, unless there is intervention African elephants face impending extinction, and they are already classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

To stop this impending extinction it is essential that elephant poaching in Africa must cease and large shipments of the raw ivory via Hong Kong must be completely stopped.

According to the report there are few detection dogs available at border points, making it difficult for customs to check for both the importation of elephant tusks and also the exportation of ivory goods.

Reportedly there are also few spot-checks conducted on the average traveler heading through Hong Kong International Airport or the Lo Wu border crossing into mainland China.

While Kenya does have strong wildlife laws in place, according to Sumba this is not preventing the lucrative ivory trade. He says more support and training is essential to ensure the laws are applied correctly and justice is served in line with those wildlife laws.

AllAfrica reports that all imports of ivory into Hong Kong are illegal with very few exceptions and that most ivory items are purchased by mainland Chinese and smuggled across the border.

Reportedly the local ivory trade is legal only if the particular outlet has a Hong Kong government license on display. The worked ivory itself must be pre-1990 private stock, i.e. made before the 1990 Cites ban, and must be officially registered.

[Image: Hong Kong ivory shop CC BY-ND 2.0 Sputnik Mania / Hong Kong customs officers with seized ivory CC BY-NC 2.0 International Fund for Animal Welfare]