Rhino horn, ivory and endangered species traffickers must feel the full force of Hong Kong law
On June 6, Hong Kong Customs officers at the airport arrested a man carrying 5.9kg of rhino horn and 410 grams of ivory, concealed in food-packing containers in his check-in luggage (“HK$1.2 million of suspected rhino horn and ivory seized at airport”, June 6).
The 40-year-old man had arrived on a flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. All African rhinoceros are critically endangered or near-threatened, and trade in their horn is prohibited under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Judging by the photos in the media, the horn seized represents the death of at least four animals.
Rhino horns are traded on the black market for up to US$100,000 per kilogram. They are more valuable than platinum.
In 2012, a woman who pleaded guilty to smuggling into Hong Kong two rhinoceros horns was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment. On appeal, the court ruled her sentence adequate, despite the fact that the defendant had, by her own admission, trafficked rhinoceros horn before.
One month ago, Hong Kong raised the maximum penalty for trade in endangered species to 10 years’ imprisonment. Wildlife crimes are now regarded as indictable offences and may be tried in the district and high courts of Hong Kong. Such offences should be met with the serious consideration and sentence they deserve.
Amanda Whitfort, associate professor, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong