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Hong Kong bans ivory trade

February 1, 2018

Conservationists have heralded the landmark decision, which they hope will bring relief to elephants. Under the new law, Hong Kong plans to phase out ivory stocks by 2021.

ivory products in China
Products made from ivory sell at a very high price in ChinaImage: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/W. Hong

Hong Kong delivers blow to ivory trade

Lawmakers in Hong Kong voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in favor of abolishing the trade of ivory by 2021 in its territory. The move follows China's complete ban on ivory sales, which went into effect at the end of 2017.

The trade of African ivory is highly lucrative, especially in China, where it is seen as a status symbol. As a result of this practice, around 20,000 elephants are killed illegally every year, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) organization. 

Three stage phase-out

The amendment to the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants, would first ban the trade in hunting trophies and ivory dating after 1975. It would then extend the ban to ivory acquired before 1975, and finally by 2021 it would see the ban of all ivory stock.

The bill increases penalties for offenders to a maximum fine of HK$10 million ($1.3 million), as well a 10-year jail sentence.

Angry ivory traders have demanded that the government compensate them for their lost stock caused by the forced closure of their businesses. However, the law does not allow for this.

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Conservationists cheer

While some conservationists worry that the law's implementation could still be exploited and that it may be too late for African elephants, the community still welcomed the landmark decision.

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"Shutting down this massive ivory market has thrown a lifeline to elephants," said Bert Wander of global advocacy group Avaaz in a statement.

"Today is a great day for elephants. Hong Kong has always been the 'heart of darkness' of the ivory trade with a 670-ton stockpile when international trade was banned in 1989," said Alex Hofford of WildAid Hong Kong.

jcg/kms (dpa, AFP)