Courts must use power to stop wildlife trade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 1994, 12:00am

I REFER to the report, 'Law cracks down on wildlife trade', and the editorial, 'Brutal trade attacked', (South China Morning Post, October 29).

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hong Kong welcomes the very substantial increase in penalties for illegal trading in wildlife, these penalties now being among the most severe in the world.

The announcement of the revised penalties was carefully timed to coincide with the Conference of the Parties to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Undoubtedly the international community will be suitably impressed by Hong Kong's action, but penalties on the statute books alone will not stem the trade, which is threatening an ever increasing number of species with extinction.

The real test of Hong Kong's commitment to stamping out the illegal trade in wildlife has yet to come. For years, the Government has failed to provide sufficient resources to the Agriculture and Fisheries Department to ensure appropriate levels of inspection and enforcement, as evidenced by embarrassing discoveries of quantities of rhino horn and bear gall bladders.

Redeployment of staff from other sections of the department has helped to meet the shortfall of staff in the Conservation Division, but still is insufficient to deal with the volume of trade through the territory. When will the Agriculture and Fisheries Department be provided additional staff resources? Even with increased enforcement capability, traders will not be deterred unless the courts hand down appropriately severe penalties.

The administration has reflected the seriousness of the trade in the increased penalties, it is now up to the judiciary to reflect this in sentences.