Based on government data, the report shows that volumes of wildlife seized in 2018 and 2019 surpassed all annual totals for the preceding decade with the exception of 2015. Figures indicate a shift in trade dynamics with a decline in ivory in trade following the local ban, pangolins at devastatingly high levels and a worrying diversification of other endangered species seized.
Indeed, the “Other Endangered Species” seizures, including everything that is not ivory, pangolin or wood, were at an all-time high in 2019, a threefold increase over the previous year, which itself was a threefold increase since 2017.
“It is vital that decisive action is taken to change our city from being a hub for the illegal wildlife trade to become a global leader in the fight against it” said Sophie le Clue of ADM Capital Foundation. “If not, we will continue to inflict irreversible damage on the world’s biodiversity and suffer impacts long into the future.”
Facilitating enhanced enforcement to stem the illegal trade in Hong Kong, a Member’s Bill submitted by Hong Kong law maker Elizabeth Quat was tabled in LegCo’s Environmental Affairs Panel today. The proposed policy reform to amend the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) to include wildlife offences in its schedules, could demonstrate Hong Kong’s global leadership in combating wildlife trafficking.
“This bill to amend OSCO is urgently needed and we commend the government for responding to the global biodiversity crisis” Said Amanda Whitfort, Associate Professor of Law at The University of Hong Kong.
The 1,404 seizures over the two years reflected in the report also included almost 7,000 live animals. This meant that in 2019 alone, over 2,300 seized endangered animals had to be euthanized by government authorities.
“The unrelenting rise in Hong Kong’s wildlife seizures is a clear signal that we cannot continue to ignore the wildlife traffickers who exploit our city” said Dr David Olson, Director of Conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.
Wildlife contraband seizures consistently rank within the top five customs seizures in terms of value, annually. The value of 2018-2019 seizures was estimated at HK$207 million according to government data. Sentences for convicted carriers ranged from a fine of HK$300 to 32-months imprisonment. “Enforcement in the wildlife trade typically focuses on carriers of the products instead of investigating what are often syndicates behind the trade” said Dorothy Cheng of WildAid Hong Kong.
Members of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade Working Group formally delivered a co-signed letter to the Chairman of Panel on Environmental Affairs, in support of the Member’s Bill.