HONG KONG (13 January 2016) —In his Annual Policy Address, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced that the government will legislate a ban on local elephant ivory sales, joining mainland China and the United States in a global effort to end Africa’s elephant poaching crisis that has claimed up to 33,000 elephants a year.
Responding to several hidden camera investigations into the city's ivory trade released last fall, Hong Kong environment officials had previously said they are “open-minded” to the possibility of ending legal ivory sales reversing their previous position that the trade was “strictly regulated.”
Leung also announced that maximum penalties for endangered species trafficking would be sharply increased to seven years imprisonment, compared with the current two years under Hong Kong's Endangered Species Ordinance.
“History has shown that legal ivory sales only serve to provide a cover for illegal trade, which fuels the rampant poaching we see across Africa. Hong Kong has always been the epicenter of that trade, so we congratulate CY Leung and the government for this historic step. Coupled with a 50% drop in ivory prices in China over the last 18 months, the end of the crisis may be in sight,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.
In a significant move to save one of the world’s most-treasured marine animals, Peru has approved strong regulations to protect the giant oceanic manta ray, a species particularly vulnerable to fishing activity.
Manta ray populations are under serious threat worldwide from fisheries targeting mantas for their gills and meat, and from accidental entanglement in nets and fishing line. Peru has one of the largest remaining populations of giant oceanic manta rays. Last spring, a giant oceanic manta caught in a gill net by a fisherman in Peru made international headlines, sparking calls to strengthen protections for mantas, whose gill plates are often sold in some Asian markets for use in a “health tonic.”
With the support of contributors like you, 2015 has been a banner year for WildAid as we work together to save elephants, rhinos, sharks and other magnificent animals from the illegal wildlife trade.
Among our proudest accomplishments: WildAid played an influential role in shifting attitudes and awareness about elephants in China, resulting in the September 2015 announcement of the United States’ and China’s decision to close their ivory markets – two of the world’s largest. Hong Kong, long an international hub for smuggled ivory and poorly regulated trade, has also signaled a change by stating they are now considering banning ivory sales.
Building on this momentum, we must finally turn things around for elephants in 2016. With an estimated 33,000 elephants dying in Africa each year, the end of the ivory trade cannot come soon enough.
Your year-end, tax-deductible gift makes this work possible. And you can take pride in donating to a top-rated nonprofit organization on Charity Navigator that allocates 100% of your contribution to on-the-ground programs.
Last week, the status quo in Hong Kong was disrupted.
On Thursday, December 3, lawmakers gathered from across the political spectrum in Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) to unanimously pass a motion calling on the Hong Kong government to strengthen the fight against wildlife crime and to legislate for a commercial ban on ivory trading. Although non-binding, the historic motion was passed by 37 out of 38 legislators present, with no 'No' votes or abstentions. It marked a rare display of unity in Hong Kong's polarized, post-Occupy/Umbrella movement political landscape.
Over the past few weeks, global public opinion has shifted rapidly towards the realization that ivory bans are desperately needed if the world's last remaining elephants are to be saved from extinction. The lawmakers' vote comes just a matter of weeks after the high-level announcement made at The White House by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama to "take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory." Most recently, Pope Francis also condemned ivory trafficking during his visit to Kenya.
So what does this milestone actually mean for Hong Kong? Unfortunately, the motion debate was not a bill, and as mentioned, it also was non-binding. What it does do is back the Hong Kong government into a corner by making it extremely difficult for the government to further delay; Hong Kong's Chief Executive CY Leung and officials at the government's Environment Bureau must act now.
As you can see in the time-lapsed video above, Chen Yingjie, a prominent local street artist committed to wildlife conservation, painted "Blue Dream" in the weeks leading up to China’s National Aquatic Wildlife Protection Awareness Month.
Last month, WildAid’s Chief China Representative, May Mei, unveiled the mural at an event in Guangzhou, one of China's largest cities, alongside prominent fisheries and agriculture officials, such as Director General of Fishery Monitoring Department of Agriculture Ministry Li Yanliang, Deputy Director of Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Marine and Fisheries Li Zhiquan, and Director of Resource and Environment Department of Fishery Zhao Yimin.
Measuring about 40 ft. x 14 ft, the mural will be displayed in various Guangzhou locations over the next year, including shopping mall squares and art zones. The mural will be further represented as 42 billboards throughout the Guangzhou subway system, with the message "Protect mantas: Say no to peng yu sai."