Protection efforts praised
By ANDREW LAXTON
HONG Kong's efforts to combat the trade in endangered species have earned praise in a report compiled by a top wildlife protection agency.
Together with China and Taiwan the territory was facing possible trade sanctions if pleas to crack down on the illegal trade were ignored.
But progress has been made in Hong Kong with new laws being imposed to restrict the possession of and trade in bear gall bladders and medicines containing tiger parts.
And the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) has plans for further protective measures for other endangered plants and animals.
All measures are in line with the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) requirements.
A delegation from the organisation spent last week visiting Hong Kong and China and reported that improvements were evident.
''We were very encouraged by what we saw,'' said Murray Hosking, CITES standing committee chairman.
While he accepted the Chinese authorities had taken important steps to counter the illegal trade in rhino horns and tiger bones, he said question marks remained over enforcement.
''The policing mechanisms they have set up are as good as any. But the important thing now is that they are seen to work,'' Mr Hosking said.
While he described the report that he would take back to the CITES standing committee as ''positive'', he declined to comment in detail on the delegation's findings.
Along with new legislation, the New Year also saw the launch of a territory-wide campaign to protect endangered species.
''A lot of measures have been introduced to Hong Kong to protect endangered species,'' an AFD spokesman said.
''I know there has been a notable difference and that the [CITES] delegation was pleased with the progress being made in the territory.'' The AFD also announced it would be adding a protection plan for other endangered animals and plants to the statute books. And inspections of pharmaceutical companies would continue to ensure the trade ban was being followed.
However, Mr Hosking acknowledged that the use of animal parts in Chinese medicine was a deeply ingrained tradition that would take time to break.
CITES launched a scathing attack on Taiwan, China and Hong Kong last September for not enforcing restrictions, and called on its 120 members to consider punitive sanctions ''up to and including the prohibition of trade in wildlife'' against the three.