Six tonnes of illegal ivory bound for Hong Kong seized since 2000: study


Ernest Kao, South China Morning Post

Date Published
Six tonnes of illegal ivory were seized en route to Hong Kong between 2000 and last year, while another three tonnes were trafficked out of the city illegally, a green group has found.

The findings of wildlife trade watchdog Traffic come as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) prepares to incinerate the first batch of its 28-tonne ivory stockpile on Thursday. The stash is understood to be the world’s largest ever to be destroyed.

Traffic and WWF Hong Kong highlighted the findings on Wednesday as proof that the city is one of the world’s top transit hubs and markets for contraband ivory.

Traffic made their findings by examining customs reports made to the Elephant Trade Information System, a global database which operates under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Hong Kong customs seized 33 tonnes of illegal ivory from 2000 to last year. Three of its biggest hauls were made last year alone.

WWF Hong Kong programme development officer Cheryl Lo said on Wednesday that Hong Kong is fifth in the world in terms of quantity of ivory seized.

She welcomed the government’s move to burn the stockpile as it would send a strong message that the city would not tolerate the illegal trade.

But she called on the government to ensure tighter monitoring and control over the legality of ivory sold on the local market and to conduct audits of any stocks to be destroyed.

“This would allow for more accountability and transparency,” she said.

Yannick Kuehl, Traffic’s regional director for east and south Asia, said that the latest law enforcement techniques needed to be “brought to bear” on the issue, including forensic examination of seizures, profiling of criminal activity and targeting of cargoes from high-risk countries.

The AFCD will keep 1.6 tonnes of the city’s illegal batch for “educational, scientific or other purposes”, as allowed by CITES.

Since a 1989 worldwide ban on the international trade in ivory, Hong Kong shops with government-issued licences have been able to sell certain types of ivory, including products carved before 1989, ivory from the tusks of extinct mammoths, and ivory bought from government stockpile sales in southern Africa.

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