Hong Kong's ivory market is booming thanks to an influx of tourists seeking luxury items — and that's impeding international efforts to end Africa’s elephant poaching crisis, according to a new report released Wednesday by Save the Elephants.
A survey of 72 Hong Kong retail outlets found nearly 31,000 ivory items displayed for sale, with jewelry the most popular item followed by figurines. Vendors estimated that 90% of customers were tourists from mainland China.
“No other city surveyed has so many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong,” report co-author Esmond Martin said in a statement. “With higher taxes on the mainland, Hong Kong has become a cheaper place to buy ivory. With 40 million people crossing the border between the territories every year and controls lax, there’s little chance of their getting caught.”
Licensed vendors can legally sell ivory products obtained prior to 1990 when an international ban on ivory imports went into effect. But the city's licensing system has been roundly condemned as ineffective, allowing for the sale of illegal ivory from recently poached elephants.
At 51,000 square miles, Ecuador’s Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. Due to its isolation, over 20% of the terrestrial and marine species in the Galápagos Islands are found nowhere else on earth.
Sadly, it’s also a hotbed for illegal fishing activity that threatens the archipelago’s biodiversity. WildAid estimates that at any given time, there are between 1-5 commercial vessels fishing around the GMR, with illegal take of sea cucumber, lobster, and several species of tuna, shark and billfish.
Ecuadorian commercial longliners from the continent are the primary threat to the Galápagos, with crews often towing smaller boats that enter the reserve. (Costa Rican and Colombian fishermen pose a threat as well.) We also estimate that some operations are tied to organized crime: Contraband includes narcotics, shark fin and fuel, which is heavily subsidized by the Ecuadorian government and is sold at sea.
Working in cooperation with the Galápagos National Park Service and partners, WildAid aims to make this reserve the best-protected marine reserve in the developing world.
Recently, we partnered with colleagues at World Wildlife Fund to conduct a three-day operations and marine enforcement training with over 40 wardens from the Galápagos as well as continental protected areas such as Machalilla, Pacoche and Santa Clara.
With Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week in full swing, it's a good time for us all to remember these facts:
• An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year, with fins from up to 73 million used for shark fin soup.
• Some shark populations have declined by up to 98% over the past 15 years.
• Nearly one-third of open-ocean shark species are considered threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
• As apex predators, sharks are vital to maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. These animals should be celebrated, not slaughtered.
What is WildAid doing to end the shark fin trade?
To measurably raise awareness and concern about the impact of the consumption of shark fin soup on shark populations and marine biodiversity, WildAid works with media network partners in China to broadcast our campaign messages via TV and other media outlets, including video billboards in subway and train stations, airports, and university campuses. We have produced many high-quality TV PSAs on shark fin for China with our celebrity ambassadors Yao Ming and others, including prominent Chinese CEOs. WildAid's latest campaign features several PSAs including sports icon David Beckham, actor/director Jiang Wen and actress Maggie Q.
Our campaigns, in combination with government bans at official events, have contributed to a reported 50%-70% decrease in China’s shark fin consumption.
NAIROBI, Kenya (30 June 2015) — Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has returned to her native Kenya and announced today that she will advocate globally for elephants with international conservation organization WildAid, as well as promote women’s issues, acting and the arts in Kenya.
“I am proud of my Kenyan heritage, and part of that heritage is the incredible wildlife haven that is in our care,” Ms. Nyong’o said. “I have come to realize that when you know more, you do more. I want to encourage people all over the world to learn more about these incredible animals. From reading a conservation website like WildAid.org to visiting one of the many, unforgettable, world-class national parks. I ask the world to end the current elephant poaching crisis by being ‘Ivory Free.’ It is time to ban sales of ivory worldwide and to consign the tragedy of the ivory trade to history.”
Ms. Nyong’o spent time in Amboseli National Park with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants and at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Nairobi elephant orphanage, meeting with local conservationists and filming messages for international distribution in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and the United States. These messages are designed to raise awareness of the elephant-poaching crisis and to reduce the demand for ivory in consuming markets. Ms. Nyongo also met with Kenya-based African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants who partner on these projects, as well as representatives of Wildlife Direct, and Ol Pejeta and Lewa Conservancies — all groups active in combatting poaching in Kenya.
CNN has a great segment on WildAid Hong Kong's Alex Hofford, a leading voice in the campaign to put an end to Hong Kong's ivory market, one of the world's largest, as well as other key issues such as the shark fin trade. Check out the video below.