Activists from Hong Kong for Elephants joined other groups in North Point over the weekend to protest outside a store selling huge quantities of African elephant ivory.
Local and international calls are growing for more, and stricter, regulation of the city’s out-of-control ivory trade. As a first step towards a full commercial ban, the activists want to alert the Hong Kong public and rally the Hong Kong government to shut down a cruel and rapacious trade.
Africa lost 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, hence the group is calling on the city’s ivory traders to explain why their “old stocks” of ivory were not depleted long ago.
According to Hong Kong for elephants, the city’s ivory traders have had more than 25 years to clear out their pre-1989 ban ivory stocks, but are still holding onto them so that they can provide a cover for new ivory to be sold to unsuspecting consumers – many of whom are unaware that in order to get ivory an elephant has to die or be killed. At current levels of poaching, if nothing is done, it is likely that the African elephant may go extinct within our lifetime.
The group believes that the ivory traders in Hong Kong are topping up their existing stocks of pre-1989 CITES convention ivory with smuggled ivory from illegally-killed African elephants. These supposed “old stocks” are being used as a vehicle for laundering freshly poached African elephant ivory into the market. And besides those 447 officially licensed holders of ivory ‘License to Possess’, there are also many unlicensed shops operating illegally in Hong Kong – all selling freshly poached ivory with impunity.
According to Hong Kong government statistics, “legal” ivory stockpiles stood at 116.5 tonnes in 2011, 118.7 tonnes in 2012, and 117.1 tonnes in 2013. Our groups asks: “why isn’t this stockpile going down?”
Many consumers are unaware that buying an ivory trinket from a store in Mong Kok, Sheung Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui East or North Point, could be financing terrorist groups in Africa such as the AlShabaab, Boko Haram, or the Lord’s Resistance Army.
During the protest, citizen journalist James Bang was assaulted by a staff member when attempting to take a photo of an ivory ‘Licence to Possess’ certificate that has been altered to hide the supplier’s name.
The group believes Chinese Goods Centre Limited is breaking the law by redacting the name of the licensee on the Licence to Possess which is supposed to be displayed in conspicuous position in the store.
In statement, Hong Kong for Elephants said: “We call on the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to step up enforcement efforts and increase licensing patrols and do much more to rein in the excesses of the ivory trade. We also call on Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and Hong Kong Environment Secretary KS Wong to legislate an ivory trade ban to save the magnificent African elephant without delay – before it is too late.”
Visit the Hong Kong for Elephants Facebook page. Photos by Alex Hofford.