Hong Kong Announces End to Ivory Trade

posted: 01/14/16
by: Danny Clemens
A young female elephant with short tusks in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Tetra Images via Getty Images

The city of Hong Kong will soon implement a complete ban on the sale of ivory, officials announced Wednesday.

In his annual policy address, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying explained that his administration will enact the total ban "expeditiously," but added that the policy must first be approved by the city's Legislative Council.

Presently, the regulated sale of ivory harvested before 1990 is still permitted within city limits. According to a 2015 report from conservation organization Save the Elephants, there were more than 30,000 ivory items available from 72 different registered ivory retailers. Report authors Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne claim that Hong Kong has "more items for sale than any other city in the world."

As anti-ivory advocates point out, however, the legal, regulated ivory trade has been known to serve as a cover for the black market, which is a main driver of poaching and wildlife trafficking.

Related: US Destroys One Ton of Confiscated Ivory to Protest Illegal Ivory Trade

"Hong Kong has always been the epicenter of that trade, so we congratulate CY Leung and the government for this historic step. Coupled with a 50% drop in ivory prices in China over the last 18 months, the end of the crisis may be in sight," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said in a statement.

The move follows a similar September 2015 announcement from United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who agreed to implement a near-complete ban on commercial ivory trading in their respective countries.

Internationally, the ivory trade targets African and Asian elephants and walruses. Although a worldwide ban on ivory trading was enacted in 1989, the black market for ivory continues to thrive. According to estimates from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, one elephant was killed for its ivory every 15 minutes between 2000 and 2012.

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