Hong Kong to Ban Import/Export of Ivory and Close Domestic Markets

Another Nail in the Coffin for The Ivory Trade?

Dear Friends,

Who would have believed, just a few years ago, as the terrible news about escalating elephant poaching levels and massive ivory seizures relentlessly dominated the wildlife news headlines, that at the start of 2016 we would be reading the following, published in the Hong Kong Gazette (where the government of HK publishes its work plans). Hong Kong has long been recognised as a major importer and distributor of ivory.

“The Government is very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa.  It will kick start legislative procedures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies and actively explore other appropriate measures, such as enacting legislation to further ban the import and export of ivory and phase out the local ivory trade, and imposing heavier penalties on smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species.  Meanwhile, the Government will strengthen enforcement and take rigorous action against the smuggling and illegal trade in ivory.”

This, following hard on the heels of a range of other initiatives involving: the UN General Assembly decision that wildlife crime is a ‘serious crime’ meriting a tariff of 4 years in jail; the High Level meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade, hosted by the United Kingdom Government in 2014 and followed up by the successful Kasane Meeting held in Botswana in 2015; the joint announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama that they would end ‘virtually all’ domestic trade in ivory; the decisions of numerous countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, France, the Philippines, Belgium, the United States of America, Chad, China and Gabon, to destroy or put beyond commercial use their ivory stockpiles.

And that’s not all. While attending the CITES Standing Committee meeting in a Geneva (11-15 January 2016) Sri Lanka has announced that it will deal with its ivory stockpile, putting it permanently beyond commercial use.

In addition, plans to develop what is known as a Decision-Making Mechanism for a future trade in ivory were all but abandoned, with many countries and non-government organisations such as Born Free and SSN (the Species Survival Network) recognising that when elephants in so many countries are in crisis and the illegal ivory trade continues unabated, discussions about a future ivory trade send all the wrong signals and may stimulate further poaching.

However, even with all this positive news, there is no room for complacency. The crisis facing elephants across so much of their range continues without respite. Rangers continue to lose their lives on conservation’s thin green line. The poaching syndicates and organised criminal networks behind the bloody ivory trade remain intact and continue to use all their ingenuity to defeat the forces of law and order. And, while public information and education initiatives have achieved remarkable results in reducing demand there are still many millions of people who want to buy ivory, fuelling the poaching.

I believe another nail has been hammered into the coffin of the global ivory trade but the coffin has yet to be buried once and for all.

Blogging Off


4 Responses to “Hong Kong to Ban Import/Export of Ivory and Close Domestic Markets”

  1. Louise McKenna Says:

    This is very good news! Once the seeds of change are sown eventually there must be fruit.L

  2. Virginia McKenna Says:

    Thank you for beginning the year with such encouraging and unexpected good news. As you say “no room for complacency” but, hopefully, some room for optimism.It confirms one should never give up.

  3. Gill Gilbey Says:

    Dear Will,
    It is of course welcome news to hear any government condemn the ivory trade and we all look forward to seeing Hong Kong put its declaration into practise but being a sceptic I am wary of seeing the phrase “as soon as possible”!
    I am also concerned when reading that Zimbabwe are zealously selling Elephants to China,anyone brought that up at CITES?
    We all hope that the tide is beginning to turn,but as you say “no room for complacency.

  4. Petra ROTH Says:

    Dear Will

    i discovered ‘Christian the Lion’ on a documentary film watching on Cathay Pacific going from Paris to Hong Kong – what an amazing story- what an amazing chance that ‘Christian- the lion’ met with your father and mother, back in that store of furniture in London, which finally made him …free – but which gave humanity (of course above all Ace and John… and George Adamson) such a great lesson to learn

    just a couple of weeks before, i watched Alice Town, and when i got into all biograpies and stories about George Adamson; his wife Joy, Elsa … the Movie Born Free,

    Should you read these lines, please embrace your mother – Virginia, i truly admire her …

    i since become member of BORN GREE – being on a holiday in Koh Samui / Thailand now, (first i was her 29 years ago – gosh has it changed) i visited an elephant trekking yesterday, not doing the tourist thing; i spent my time to feed them, get close to caress them and being amazed about their sensitivity – a 7 month old baby elephant i was in ore of, tried to kick with his back legs a young man coming by making a stupid self indulgent ‘selfie’ in front of it- one look that little elephant turned and gave this guy a small kick – i had the feeling with the smiling trump back on my hand looking for a banana, another one !

    i think – of the little i could see- those elephants are treated well, certainly not the best to walk around in the forest transporting tourists all day, –) but what shocked me, the area where thai people held a most beautiful baby tiger all isolated and chained, and in another cement round table a guepard – chained for the purposes of a picture, the hour i stayed there watching and looking at the tourists, posing just for a damn picture and not even showing any interest in the animal

    what can be done to ban this ?

    i work a lot with Hong Kong and China; and i am more than grateful to read that also HK banned importing/exporting of ivory and that Chinese President Xi Jinping is aware the of urgency of banning – there is still a generation of OLD men in China believing in all sorts of magic powders, this generation will dye out soon – but it might already be almost too late,

    i trust that life will guide me the right way to see – what i can do to help more actively

    truly, thanks to all in Born Free, and all organisations in the world helping to preserve animals …

    Petra Roth