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Ivory trade in Hong Kong and China

Mainland China ban on ivory sales to come into force on Sunday

Trading will continue, however, in Hong Kong with a phased end to the trade proposed by 2021

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 3:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 10:25pm

A ban on ivory sales in China, the world’s largest importer and end user of elephant tusks, takes effect on Sunday with wildlife activists calling it a vital step to reducing the slaughter of the endangered animals.

China has made a big push to eradicate ivory sales and demand has fallen since early 2014 because of a crackdown on corruption and slower economic growth.

Public awareness campaigns featuring celebrities have helped boost awareness of the bloody cost of ivory. Wildlife groups estimate 30,000 elephants are killed by poachers in Africa every year.

“It is the greatest single step toward reducing elephant poaching,” said Peter Knights, chief executive of the group WildAid.

China has allowed the sale of pre-convention ivory, which refers to products such as carvings and crafts acquired before the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, as long as it is accompanied by certificates.

Surge in number of endangered wildlife products seized by Hong Kong customs

The trade in pre-convention ivory has been legally thriving in China and Hong Kong since 1975, and environmental activists have long asserted that it has spurred demand for all ivory.

The ban on all ivory sales has already led to an 80 per cent decline in seizures of illegal ivory entering China as well as a 65 per cent decline in raw ivory prices, WildAid said.

Under the ban, China’s 172 ivory-carving factories and retail outlets will also close. Some factories and shops started closing in March.

Illegal ivory supplies have also been rife in unlicensed shops and online across China.

This year, ivory prices in China were about 65 per cent lower than 2014 levels, WildAid said, with retailers in some places trying to sell off stocks and offering heavy discounts before the ban.

Don’t wait five years to ban ivory trade, Hong Kong

The Chinese ban has been hailed by activists, but they warn that Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, remains a big obstacle to the eradication of elephant poaching.

Beijing’s ban on sales does not apply in the former British colony, which has the largest retail market for ivory and has traded it for more than 150 years.

The city is a prime transit and consumption hub for ivory with more than 90 per cent of consumers from mainland China.

Hong Kong has intercepted about 40 tonnes of illegal ivory since 2003, only about 10 per cent of what is believed to have been smuggled in, WildAid said in a paper to the city’s legislature in May.

Video of man shooting caged bear sparks outcry in China

Hong Kong set a timetable for a ban on ivory trading last year, with a phase-out time of five years. A final vote on the ban is expected in the city’s legislature in early 2018.

Conservationist Zhou Fei said the Chinese ban could be a catalyst for the closure of ivory markets across Asia.

However, the Kenya-based conservation group Save the Elephants said this year that neighbouring Laos has expanded its retail market more rapidly than any other country.