Hong Kong must not let response to endangered pangolin mirror ivory trade shame
I write to congratulate the Hong Kong government’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Customs and Excise Department on the success of their 10-week operation to combat endangered species smuggling. The joint operation resulted in seizures of HK$19 million (US$2.4 million) in suspected endangered species, as well as 82 arrests.
This shows the impact proper resourcing would likely have on combating wildlife crime within the territory. With Hong Kong’s annual seizures in endangered species routinely valued as second only to dangerous drugs, isn’t it time the agriculture and customs departments were given sufficient human resources and legislative powers to pursue wildlife offences with as much vigilance as police pursue triad and drug crimes?
This should start with amending our Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance to target endangered species smuggling. With more adequate powers and resources, we could also start policing the pangolin market.
Watch: Rare pangolin spotted in Hong Kong
As noted in your story, “How Hong Kong shops manage to cash in on pangolin scales” (September 5), traders in Hong Kong do not need permits to sell pangolin scales. While we wait around for the legislative amendment raising pangolin species to Appendix 1 (banning the unlicensed sale of pangolin scales) to take effect in November – two years after 182 countries agreed on a total pangolin trade ban at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – the world’s most trafficked mammal is quickly going extinct.
This year alone, the authorities have netted over 15 tonnes of smuggled scales within the city. Hong Kong’s role in the extinction of the pangolin should not be a repeat of our shamefully tardy response to ivory trade.
Amanda Whitfort, associate professor, Faculty of Law, HKU