Today, a coalition of 51 NGOs coordinated by Robin des Bois and WildAid Hong Kong co-signed and sent a letter to Wong Kam-sing, Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Environment, demanding that the Hong Kong Government stop issuing any new import licenses and re-export licenses for pre-Convention elephant ivory.
— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) April 15, 2015
What does this mean, and how might this action help save Africa’s elephants?
The European Union is the primary exporter of alleged pre-Convention ivory, much of it imported by Hong Kong with the ultimate destination being mainland China ivory carving factories. This is facilitating an illegal ivory trade that’s fueling an elephant poaching epidemic in Africa.
“Pre-Convention” ivory refers to ivory that was in circulation prior to the 1975 establishment of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Hong Kong’s ivory traders are routinely exploiting legal loopholes in the Hong Kong law which is enabling them to legally import raw and cut elephant tusks from Europe and then launder recently poached ivory taken from illegally-killed elephants into the legal market using government supplied paperwork.
Alex Hofford, Wildlife Campaigner for WildAid said, “Traders are turning a blind eye to where the ivory goes. Criminal buyers of pre-Convention raw ivory are smuggling it across Hong Kong’s internationally recognized border with China to feed an insatiable demand from the mainland’s ivory carving factories. Certainly Hong Kong is not the final destination for these raw ivory tusks from Europe. The Hong Kong government is aiding and abetting an illegal trade.”
Charlotte Nithart of Paris based NGO Robin des Bois (Robin Hood) added: “We are confident. Such a united step of NGOs based in each continent, on behalf of millions of citizens cannot be neglected by Hong Kong authorities”.
The coalition of 51 NGOs represents both the demand and supply sides of the ivory trade, and are based in African elephant range States, ivory exporting European countries, and in China and Hong Kong – the world’s largest ivory importing country and region.
Together they believe that if this avenue on the supply chain of “new material” to mainland China’s ivory carving factories could be severed, it would be a crucial win for elephants. Such a move by Hong Kong would also greatly help similar initiatives being taken in an increasing number of countries to reduce the international trade in ivory.
So far, the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have all adopted such restrictive measures. A strong campaign by the NGO coalition is also being mounted to extend these measures to all member States of the European Union.