Hong Kong has the largest number of ivory items on sale in the world. At 30,856 pieces, this market is also the closest to the world’s main ivory consumer: China. Every year, over 30 million Chinese tourists come to the island territory to shop for authentic luxury goods. This means that even if China makes good on its promise to shut down its markets, Hong Kong will still be a stumbling block to progress, to peace for elephants. Having researched and published this report, Save the Elephants is now on the road to bolster the efforts of those most able to close this loophole.
In July, a simultaneous press conference was held to launch the report Hong Kong’s Ivory: More Items for Sale than in Any other City in the World. The authors of the report, Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne along with founder Dr. Iain Douglas Hamilton were in Nairobi, while Resson Kantai Duff, Head of Awareness was in Hong Kong with WWF’s Head of Wildlife Crime Cheryl Lo sharing the same message to both source and sink audiences: this ivory trade loophole is a threat to elephant populations and must be plugged immediately.
As the report did the rounds in both Hong Kong and international media, the Hong Kong public responded positively by reiterating their commitment to “playing our role by not buying any products connected to this trade.” The next day, Resson walked the corridors of power with Cheryl and Alex Hofford of WildAid, visiting two legislators to present the report to them. Their response was overwhelming. Elizabeth Quat, who has come to Samburu and continues to champion this issue was happy with the report, and promised to take it forward. Kenneth Chan from the Civic Party was equally excited about “having something to present to the Council,” and with great pragmatism, took time to detail his next steps.
True to his word, Chan has already presented the report to the Legislative Council, which agreed to further debate the issue in October. To many outside the Far East, impatience rides high and people expect paradigm shifts in a split second. To the trained eye, the significance of this move is huge, as the country sheds light on an issue that has for too long languished in shadow.
The report now lies squarely in the hands of the policy makers, and at the same time is being reviewed by those who are enforcing current laws. Resson had the opportunity to meet Senior Conservation Officer Dr. PM So of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of Hong Kong – the body that deals with enforcement on wildlife crime. He assured her that enforcement on this issue would be stepped up. Just days after this meeting, Hong Kong Customs seized about 15 kilograms of suspected ivory tusks and ivory products worth about HK$150,000 and arrested an incoming male passenger at Hong Kong International Airport. The AFCD swiftly investigated and found him guilty. He was swiftly fined HK$62,000.
After such a bleak find of so many ivory pieces on sale, such information is ever more powerful in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.