EBBING AWAY -- HONG KONG’S IVORY TRADE

Hong Kong1 successfully passed a law to ban elephant ivory trade in 2018; a monumental step that recognises the need for robust action to stem the elephant poaching crisis, and the city’s contribution to this through trade. Once implemented and enforced, this ban will likely put an end to an industry that once characterised Hong Kong as a global wildlife trade hub and centre for ivory production in the 1970–1980s. An international trade ban that was agreed by Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1989 had instigated the decline in the territory’s ivory industry, but subsequent resurgence in demand from mainland China during the ensuing decades of rapid economic development gave considerable stimulus to the local ivory industry. This was in part due to demand from visiting Chinese tourists, which led to large flows of both legal (pre-Convention) and illegally- sourced ivory in and out of Hong Kong. Remedial measures adopted by the Hong Kong Government to strengthen licensing, monitoring and law enforcement of the local ivory market were initiated in 2015, but vocal public opposition to continued ivory trade and bold ambitions from other major ivory markets (mainland China, USA and others) provided the enabling conditions to propose a near-complete ban on ivory trade in the territory.