Local ivory traders angry at release of African stockpile

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 1997, 12:00am

Ivory traders will call on the Government to lobby the international community and allow Hong Kong to trade its massive stockpiles with Japan.

The move comes after the relaxation of the seven-year international trade ban which will allow controlled trade by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

A trial 62 tonnes of stockpiled ivory from the three African countries will be sold to Japan in 1999, subject to both parties implementing stringent monitoring controls.

The decision by the 138 member states of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna has increased frustration among local traders, who are sitting on a stockpile of 286 tonnes of ivory.

The controversial decision does not change the legal status of the ivory stockpiled in Hong Kong, which was imported before the 1989 ban and can only be sold within the territory.

Cat Street trader Wong Fat-kwan, of Pivot Trading Company, said it was unfair and traders should lobby the Government.

But vice-chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ivory Manufacturers' Association Lee Chat said: 'I am not optimistic. We have been negotiating with the Hong Kong Government for a long time. But they just turned a deaf ear.' Sheung Wan trader Leung Shue-woo said prices in Hong Kong would tumble now that Japan had found a legal source.

For the sake of the elephants, Hong Kong's ivory, and not stockpiles in Africa, should be sold to Japan, Mr Leung said.

'All the ivory here has labels to prove it is legal. It would not cause any hunting of elephants in Africa.'