Follow Beijing’s lead and ban Hong Kong’s ivory trade in 12 months

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 11:09pm

Congratulations to Beijing in making the game-changing call to ban the ivory trade in the next 12 months.

Illegal trade might continue but a ban removes the argument of what’s legal and illegal ivory, making it much harder to trade in illegal ivory. The message is getting through that to obtain ivory, elephants must be killed, a fact many in Asia are still unware of, believing (mistakenly) that tusks are teeth that fall out and are replaced.

Hong Kong recently announced a ban in the trade of ivory, in three phases over the next five years. Surely the government here can now follow Beijing’s lead and implement the ban within 12 months?

Hong Kong remains the world’s largest centre for the ivory trade, an industry that kills about 35,000 elephants a year, or one every 15 minutes.

The recent Great Elephant Census concluded there were 350,000 elephants left on the plains of Africa and the current rate of killing means elephants will be extinct in the next 10 to 15 years.

Elephants are not just magnificent animals to look at, they are a keystone species – a species that is so important to the environment it affects populations of other species around it. Let elephants become extinct and the habitat in which they lived changes irreversibly.

Hong Kong’s ivory trade has had 27 years to sell its stocks, an exemption gained when Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) banned the trade in 1989, yet government figures show these have changed little in that time. How will another five years of legal trade make any difference?

Why let 50 per cent of the remaining elephant population die to satisfy the greed of traders whose sole aim is to profit from pushing a magnificent species to the point of extinction?

What must the international community think of us? Traders say that the government cannot stop this, being a legitimate business.

If this trade is legitimate, maybe there is a case for compensation. But compensation should be based on earnings from the sale of ivory as declared to the Inland Revenue Department.

The survival of the elephant species depends on us. We have the power to save it by a combination of stopping the demand for and trade in ivory.

It is time, now, for the Hong Kong government to step up to the plate and follow Beijing’s lead.

Colin Dawson, co-founder, the Elephant Society