An army of about 100 school children from four Hong Kong schools converged Saturday on city’s ivory trade stronghold of Hollywood Road to peacefully protest the rampant trade in elephant ivory. The young activists, ages 10 to 12, held placards and shouted slogans as they called for members of the public to stop buying elephant ivory and for the Hong Kong government to ban the city’s ivory trade.
WildAid supports the actions of these elephant advocates who attend ESF Clearwater Bay School, ESF Kennedy School, ESF West Island School and Canadian International School. According to Save the Elephants, 100,000 African elephants were illegally killed for their ivory tusks between 2010 and 2012 — a crisis fuelled in large part by demand from Hong Kong and China.
The protest comes just days after the Kenyan government publicly destroyed 15 tonnes of illegal ivory, China announced a ban on certain ivory carvings from Africa, and the US State of California moved a step closer to banning nearly all in-state ivory sales as a bill passed out of a state assembly committee on a 10-2 vote.
The courageous primary school children filed past several antique shops on Hollywood Road, none of which were displaying valid licenses for their ivory stocks. The demonstrators were joined by Greenpeace volunteers, a contingent from the city’s anti-fur and pro-animal welfare lobby, and by concerned members of the public.
The peaceful protest also filed past several shops selling ivory on Queen’s Road Central as well as two small-scale ivory carving factories.
Saturday’s anti-ivory trade protest was the largest to date in Hong Kong and the fifth in a series of youth-led protests, all of which have seen positive citizen action result in tangible change.
In 2014, four major retailers denounced the selling of elephant ivory products after protests outside their stores forced them to consider their support for the “blood ivory” trade: Last year, Chinese Arts & Crafts, Wing On Department Store, Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium and Chinese Good Centre Limited department stores either cited “adjustment of product mix” or “environmental concerns” as their stated reason for suspending elephant ivory sales.
Demonstrating the industry’s willingness to adapt to public opinion, these commercial establishments responded positively to the sentiments of the public upon whom they rely for business.
For historical reasons, Hong Kong is a notorious hub for the illegal ivory trade, and suffers from weak government enforcement and lax ivory licensing and controls.
Given that Hong Kong suffers from parallel “legal” and illegal ivory markets, it’s impossible for consumers, the media or NGOs to distinguish illegal ivory from “legal” ivory without using radiocarbon analysis. The only solution to the problem is to ban the trade entirely.