Press Release…LCQ2: Ivory trade


Hong Kong Government

Date Published

 Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (June 4):


     The Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap. 586) (the Ordinance) is the local legislation that gives effect to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  Under the Ordinance, a licence issued by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is required for the import, introduction from the sea, export, re-export or possession of ivory.  CITES has banned international trade of ivory since 1990, but ivory legally imported into Hong Kong prior to the trade ban may, after being registered with AFCD and issued with a Licence to Possess by AFCD, be legally traded in Hong Kong.  However, such ivory is not allowed to be re-exported for commercial trade.  Regarding the ivory trade in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that it has been recently reported that Hong Kong’s top three retailers of ivory have ceased selling ivory products, and that the Government has commenced phased destruction of confiscated ivory by incineration since May 2014 to demonstrate its determination to curb illicit trade in ivory, whether the Government will consider imposing a comprehensive ban on all ivory sales in Hong Kong; if it will not, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether AFCD will consider implementing a registration system for ivory items held in private collections, which makes use of carbon dating technology to ascertain the age of such items; if it will not, of the reasons for that;

(3) whether AFCD will consider making public a list of holders of ivory licences, and stating on the application forms for such licences that the personal information entered thereon may be used for such purpose; if it will not, of the reasons for that;

(4) of the following statistics on Hong Kong’s legal ivory trade in each of the past five years (set out in the table in Annex I); if there is no such information, the reasons for that; and

(i) the number of ivory licence holders;

(ii) the quantity of raw and worked ivory legally held as inventory by ivory licence holders (in tonnes); and

(iii) the quantity of raw and worked ivory leaving the inventory of ivory licence holders (in tonnes) (Annex I);

(5) given the strong demand for ivory products on the Mainland and the surge in mainland visitor arrivals to Hong Kong in recent years, whether the Government knows if the rate of depletion of the inventory of raw and worked ivory held by ivory licence holders accelerated in the past 10 years correspondingly; if the rate did not accelerate, whether it has assessed the reasons for that?



(1) The Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap. 586) (the Ordinance), is the local legislation that gives effect to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Hong Kong.  There are two existing elephant species, namely the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and African  elephant (Loxodonta africana).  Asian elephant has already been listed in Appendix I to CITES since 1975.  African elephant was first listed in Appendix III to CITES in 1976 and uplisted to Appendix I in 1990.  Since then, the international commercial trade in elephants, including specimens thereof such as ivory, has been virtually banned, except under certain specific and stringent circumstances permitted under CITES. 

     Given the history of Hong Kong as a trade center of ivory in the Asian region in the 1980s, substantial amount of ivory had been legally imported into Hong Kong during that period.  Such ivory, which was imported before the international trade ban in 1990, was registered by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).  Hong Kong has put in place a strict licensing system to regulate the domestic sale of such ivory.  The control regime in respect of trade in endangered species, including elephant ivory, is in line with CITES and is comparable to other countries.  The licensing system has been effective.  There is no plan to deviate from this well established system.  The Government endeavors to fully implement the CITES provisions, and will continue our efforts on public education and publicity to enhance public awareness on protection of endangered species.

(2) and (3) According to the Ordinance, possession of elephant ivory for commercial purpose requires a Licence to Possess issued by the AFCD.  In line with CITES, the Ordinance provides for exemption from the licensing requirement regarding possession of ivory as personal effect or for non-commercial purpose.  There is no plan to require registration of such possession.

     The holders of ivory possession licenses include companies and individuals holding ivory for commercial purpose. Personal information is collected from the application form when an applicant applies for a Licence to Possess.  The Ordinance has no explicit provision for the disclosure of the personal data collected through the application of Licence to Possess.  Given the recent public interest and attention on this matter, we will consider making available to the public a list of holders of ivory possession licences subject to legal advice on privacy of personal data.  

(4) The statistics on Hong Kong’s ivory trade in the past five years are shown in the table in Annex II.  The figures are the amount of registered ivory under valid Licences to Possess held for commercial purpose, and exclude those inactive stock held for non-commercial purpose.

(5) CITES does not prohibit local trade in pre-Convention ivory and ivory registered before the international trade ban in 1990.  The decreasing trend of the registered ivory stock is mainly due to local consumption as personal effect or for non-commercial purpose. 
Ends/Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Issued at HKT 13:14