Hong Kong Lawmakers, Following China, Vote to Ban Ivory Sales

HONG KONG (Reuters) -
A Thai customs official displays seized ivory during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai authorities seized 148 kilograms full elephant tusk and 31 tusk fragments originating from Nigeria destined for China worth over $469,800. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Lawmakers in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong voted on Wednesday to ban ivory sales in the world’s largest ivory retail market, a move wildlife activists hailed as vital towards halting the slaughter of elephants.

The vote in the former British colony, where ivory has traded for more than 150 years, came a month after China, the world’s largest importer and end user of elephant tusks, banned their sale. More than 90 percent of people buying ivory in Hong Kong are from mainland China.

Hong Kong adheres to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which began to regulate the international ivory trade in the 1970s and has banned such trade since 1990. After the Hong Kong bill is enacted in coming months, pre-convention ivory imports and re-exports into and out of Hong Kong will be prohibited.

WildAid, a wildlife non-government organisation, estimates up to 30,000 elephants are killed illegally every year.

Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat said the vote marked a great day for elephants but cautioned that action was needed.

“It’s now up to our law enforcement agencies to ensure the ban is properly implemented,” she said.

The bill will also increase penalties for wildlife crimes. Activists say Hong Kong’s leniency has made it attractive to mainland China for illegal products such as ivory, rhino horns and pangolin scales.