Hong Kong increased the maximum penalty for smuggling and trading endangered species yesterday from two years’ imprisonment to 10 years, as it continues its fight against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trafficking.
“Trade in endangered species is rampant in Hong Kong,” said Cheryl Lo, Senior Wildlife Crime Officer for WWF-Hong Kong. “The increased penalty, coupled with strengthened enforcement, will help deter future wildlife crime offenders from using the city as a hub for smuggling and selling.”
The raised penalty covers species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I, including ivory, rhino, the rare totoaba fish and the pangolin, which is considered the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world.
The illegal trade of species listed under Appendices II or III, including some sharks, will also be subject to a new maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.
Hong Kong is considered to be the largest ivory city market in the world and a major transit hub for illegal wildlife, which WWF-Hong Kong blames on low fines and sentences for traffickers and zero prosecutions of criminal kingpins.
The penalty increase is the first stage of the autonomous territory’s three-part ivory phase-out plan following China’s ivory trade ban at the end of 2017.