Hong Kong government has strict control mechanism in place over sale of ivory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 5:36pm

I refer to the report ("Ivory pledge puts pressure on HK", September 27) and would like to offer further information about the measures against illegal trade in ivory in Hong Kong.

Apart from regulating the import and re-export of ivory under a regime that fully complies with the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Hong Kong has put in place a strict control mechanism over local sale. Anyone keeping ivory for commercial purposes must obtain a Licence to Possess for each keeping premises. The ivory covered by such licences and registered with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was imported into Hong Kong legally before the ban on international trade of ivory was imposed by CITES in 1989.

In view of the growing concerns over the global ivory smuggling and control of local trade in ivory, the department has reviewed the regulatory measures. Enhancement measures being implemented aim at combating smuggling, and strengthening control on the local ivory trade are set out below.

On combating smuggling, the department has been working closely with the Customs and Excise Department and cooperating with overseas law enforcement agencies through international joint operations and intelligence exchange.

In addition to routine inspection at border control points, sniffer dogs trained to detect ivory have been deployed at import control points to assist screening of passengers and parcels. Such operations have recently been extended to screen passengers departing Hong Kong to tackle possible illegal export activities of ivory.

On strengthening control on the local ivory trade, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is conducting a comprehensive stock check of all ivory covered by Licences to Possess. Surprise inspection to licensed ivory shops and art and craft shops are regularly conducted on a risk-based approach.

Moreover, a marking system with tamper-proof holograms and photographic records has been introduced for pre-convention ivory tusks and cut pieces imported legally and according to the CITES. We are also extending the use of tamper-proof holograms to ivory tusks and worked ivory covered by Licences to Possess. Furthermore, the department is making use of radiocarbon dating analysis to determine the age and hence the legality of the ivory.

Simon Chan, assistant director (conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department