Friday, 17 July 2015

Come On, Hong Kong, You Can Do Better for the Elephants

Credit: SCMP

Not so long ago, yours truly happened upon a shop in Sheung Wan that claimed to sell ivory products from the trunks of mammoths. None of that made sense. Mammoth? And brazenly selling ivory products in broad daylight, when the city is believed to have illegalised both import and export of ivory without a licence 25 years ago? Ah, but then the owner probably has a licence, though why the licence was even issued is beyond me.

That the murder of elephants for their ivory is pushing many species towards extinction is a no-brainer, and it certainly boggles the mind that a city as civilised as Hong Kong is yet to join the global bandwagon in banning, once and for all, the trade of ivory. As if that isn’t embarrassing enough, Esmond Martin, one of the leading ivory researchers, has pointed out that “No other city surveyed has so many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong.” The reason is simple: the lower taxes in Hong Kong make it cheaper to buy here, with tens of thousands of people crossing the border each year to buy ivory, according to SCMP.

The situation with the world’s elephants is alarming to say the least. To quote Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, an organisation dedicated to securing a future for elephants and sustaining the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live, “Africa’s elephants are in crisis, with 100,000 killed for their ivory in just three years between 2010 and 2012. Without better controls on Hong Kong’s shops and borders the ivory trade in the territory will continue to represent a major threat to survival of the species.” Yet in response, an agriculture department spokesman said, “There is no evidence showing that Hong Kong’s legal ivory trade contributes to the poaching of elephants in Africa or provides a cover for the laundering of smuggled illegal ivory. In fact, Hong Kong is not a destination for illegal ivory.”

I feel you if your blood is boiling too. What the agriculture department spokesman doesn't understand is that wherever there is demand, there will be supply. The point to consider for the agriculture department is perhaps: why is ivory trade still legal in Hong Kong, when the facts are pointing at the drastic decrease in elephant population worldwide, as a result of ivory trade. 

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