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Activists from Project C:CHANGE and The Elephant Society take part in a 'Maasai March' ban ivory trade protest through the streets of Hong Kong's main ivory trading district of Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, China, 21 November 2015. The activists are calling on the Hong Kong government to ban the city's domestic ivory trade, which they say is a hub for the illegal laundering of ivory tusks from recently poached African elephants into Hong Kong's legal ivory market. A highlight of the 'Maasai March' was the presence of Kenyan activist Daniel Ole Tembo, a Masaai warrior and Predator Protection Programme Coordinator for Big Life Foundation, a Kenya-based NGO that is fighting illegal poaching and habitat destruction. EPA/ALEX HOFFORD
EPA/Alex Hofford
No more ivory.
SIX YEARS TO GO

Asia’s largest ivory market now wants to ban the trade completely

By Echo Huang

Hong Kong, the hub of ivory trafficking in Asia, is determined to put an end to the trade.

The city’s Executive Council, a policy-making group that advises the chief executive, approved a three-step plan on Dec. 21 to phase out the local ivory trade by 2022. The plan, first proposed in June, now awaits approval from the legislature next year.

The three steps of the plan are as follow:

  • A ban on the import and export of hunting trophies and certain ivory carvings will be effective immediately.
  • Within three months of the bill passing, the city will ban the import and export of Asian ivory acquired before 1975 and African ivory before 1976. This is referred to as “pre-Convention” ivory because these products were traded before an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, was ratified.
  • The final step is to ban all possession of ivory for commercial purposes on Dec. 31, 2021 (pdf, p.6).

Hong Kong is considered the world’s largest ivory trading market, thanks to China, which has one of the most demanding appetites for ivory in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Closing down the market might help ease that appetite as “all markets contribute to illegal trade and poaching,” said Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy at NGO Wildlife Conservation Society, in October.

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Hong Kong has been slow to make progress cutting off the trafficking of illegal wildlife products. Until late last year, it still refused to acknowledge its status as a bustling hub for the trafficking of endangered species, and seizures of illicit wildlife products were up nearly 400% from 2014 (pdf, p. 9), according to a December 2015 report published by Greenpeace.