Lawmakers in Hong Kong recently submitted a historic vote to ban the trade of ivory. The vote will result in Ivory sales completely ceasing in Hong Kong by 2021. This will have a significant impact on the elephants that are harvested for their ivory tusks.
The ivory market in Hong Kong has been around for quite some time—150 years to be exact. In that time, Hong Kong has established itself as the largest ivory market in the world. The global trading of ivory was banned in 1989, and at that time there was an estimated 670-ton stockpile (according to the conservation group WildAid Hong Kong). The only sales that are supposed to be made should be from ivory predating the 1989 ban. However, many believe that the legal trading activities, in many cases, act as a front for various other illegal activities. In July of last year, the Chinese government seized 7.2 tons of illegal ivory coming into Hong Kong, the largest ever shipment of ivory tusks.
The ban is to be a “gradual” one, so what exactly does that mean? It will occur in three different stages. First off, any trading of hunting trophies and ivory from after 1975 will be banned, as that is the year that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was put in place. The next step will be to ban the trading of ivory before 1975. The third and final step is for traders to eliminate their ivory stocks by 2021.
Smuggling ivory will also be met with more stringent punishments. The new law proposes fines that are double what the current rate is—a whopping HK$10. Offenders can also look for an increase in prison time from 2 years to 10 years.
Supporters of elephant conservation and environmentalists, in general, have hailed the ban as a tremendous victory for the Asian elephant. There are many activists who still believe that the timeframe for the ban is too long, but one can’t deny that it’s a good move on the part of the Hong Kong government. It’s just one more move that’s helped reduce the number of internationally poached animals by 110,000 over the past decade.