Today, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying met with a delegation of elephant conservation activists and a group of schoolchildren who hand-delivered a thank you card, commending Leung for his January 2016 policy address where he called for a phase-out of the local ivory trade, one of the world's largest.
WildAid, WWF-Hong Kong and Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat have been leading efforts in the city to combat wildlife trafficking and to oppose the legal ivory trade. Together, we've been working in close cooperation with Hong Kong Under Secretary for the Environment Christine Loh to drive this urgent policy change. Banning the ivory trade will reduce consumer demand for ivory carvings and other products, and will have a positive impact on African elephant populations as poaching rates decline.
Yoyo Wong, a five-year-old kindergarten student from Tuen Mun who was at the informal event, said, “Chief Executive, thank you for pledging to save the elephants in Africa. I want to see elephants when I grow up, so please work faster to ban the ivory trade!”
Twenty-six years ago, the world called time on the international trade in elephant ivory, after it had halved African elephant populations within 15 years. Now governments in the US, China and Hong Kong are finally closing the remaining loophole that allowed domestic trade to continue and facilitated a second ivory crisis that has recently been claiming 33,000 elephants a year.
Hopefully, Japan, Thailand and other significant markets will soon follow suit and the elephants can recover. The positive news is that ivory prices have more than halved in China over the past 18 months, that drop apparently starting before the domestic trade bans were announced. Ivory traders at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s jewellery fair this month offered us ivory for US$380 a kilogramme, down to 20 per cent of what it was.
In January, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his annual policy address a plan to phase out the local ivory trade. Amazingly, some traders in Hong Kong are calling for compensation for not being able to continue to sell ivory. This would be totally wrong, if not immoral, given the pivotal role of these traders in stockpiling and bending the rules to create the ivory crisis in the first place. It would be like compensating people for knowingly selling stolen goods, because the law had caught up with them.
WildAid and the #JoinTheHerd campaign are honored to be among 32 environmental and conservation organizations who have appealed to Yahoo! Japan, the world’s largest internet ivory seller, and its major shareholder SoftBank, to halt all elephant ivory sales on Yahoo! Japan’s shopping and auction sites. An open letter addressed to SoftBank and Yahoo! Japan executives, Masayoshi Son and Nikesh Arora, urges the companies to act now to protect elephants.
Earlier this month, Ecuadorian environmental officials intercepted four Peruvian vessels caught illegally fishing three miles outside the Santa Clara Island marine protected area, located just off the mainland coast.
Declared a formal reserve in 1999, Santa Clara Island is the largest refuge for seabirds in continental Ecuador, home to thousands of pelicans, blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds and an array of marine life.
During a regular patrol, Ecuadorian marine enforcement officials spotted the four Peruvian vessels, which were engaged in long-line fishing. Every year, this unsustainable fishing practice kills hundreds of thousands of endangered sharks, mantas, sea turtles and seabirds — all victims of bycatch. When none of the vessels was unable to produce a valid fishing permit, officials confiscated their catch — including sea bass and chub mackerel, both important exports for Ecuador. The crew likely will face additional fines.
Good news for the Galapagos Islands and for shark conservation! Today, the Ecuadorian government announced the creation of a new 15,000-square-mile marine sanctuary — an expansion of the “no-take” zone of the Galapagos Marine Reserve — around the small islands of Darwin and Wolf.
The new no-take zone, roughly the size of Belgium, will now be protected from fishing and other activities. Small-scale fishing cooperatives who support the new initiative had previously been allowed to operate in the area, but increased pressure from industrial trawlers and illegal shark fin hunters have necessitated increased protections.