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Hong Kong Public Supports Ivory Ban

HONG KONG (May 26, 2015) — The Hong Kong public overwhelmingly supports a comprehensive ban on elephant ivory sales, according to a survey by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme released Tuesday.

The new poll found that 75% of residents interviewed expressed support for outlawing ivory sales, which are currently poorly regulated in Hong Kong. Of those in favor, 55% “very much support” a ban, while 21% “quite support.” Additionally, three-quarters of respondents agreed that the Hong Kong government should stop issuing new ivory possession licenses.

The survey also found:

• 84% of respondents knew that it’s illegal to import or export ivory from Hong Kong without a license.

• 71% knew that an elephant must be killed for poachers to collect tusks. 

• Only 34% knew that African elephants could become extinct in the wild within our lifetime if current poaching rates continue.

• Only 26% said they knew that ivory poaching is linked to militant groups and organized crime. 

The scientific survey of 1,201 Hong Kong residents was commissioned by WildAid, Save the Elephants and African Wildlife Foundation, and is supported by Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). (Click here to download the full report.)

“Hong Kong’s ‘legal’ ivory stock was largely derived from elephants poached in the 1970s and 1980s before the international trade ban. Stocks have not been physically inspected and provide a perfect cover for the laundering of new illegal ivory,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. “Traders have had 26 years to liquidate their stocks. It’s time to close this open door for poaching.”

Dr. Quat said of the findings, “The Hong Kong people have spoken. They clearly want the government to ban this immoral trade which not only profits from the deaths of thousands of endangered elephants, but also is harming China's flourishing business relationship with Africa.”

WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants are running a major public awareness campaign in mainland China to reduce the demand for ivory. The campaign uses public service announcements, billboards and subway ads featuring some of China’s biggest celebrities, including former NBA superstar Yao Ming, action hero Jackie Chan and top Chinese actress Li Bingbing, as well as The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William), David Beckham and others.

Two years in, the campaign has significantly increased awareness of today’s poaching crisis, and is now active in Hong Kong, Thailand and the United States — all major ivory consumers.

Chan Yung, a member of China's National People's Congress, said, “At the Chinese Government's National People's Congress annual meeting in March, I felt honoured to submit a bill suggestion to the Standing Committee to ban China's legal trade in ivory. Now that this has been suggested, we are stepping up our efforts to lobby the Hong Kong government to ban the ivory trade in our city. Hong Kong's legal ivory trade masks a parallel trade in illegal ivory. This is aggravating Africa's efforts to stem wildlife poaching, harming China's international reputation and must be banned immediately.”  

In March this year, 32 Hong Kong deputies to China's National People's Congress (NPC), many from the DAB, submitted to the Standing Committee of the NPC a bill suggestion to ban the domestic sale and transportation of elephant ivory in China. The 32 lawmakers who signed the bill suggestion to the NPC SC were; 陳勇 Chan Yung, 鄭耀棠 Cheng Yiu-tong, 馬逢國 Ma Fung-kwok, 馬豪輝 Ma Ho-fai, 王庭聰 Wong Ting-chung, 王敏剛 Wong Man-kong, 盧瑞安 Lo Sui-on, 田北辰 Michael Tien, 劉佩瓊 Lau Pui-king, Priscilla, 李引泉 Li Yin-quan, 楊耀忠 Yeung Yiu-chung, 吳亮星 Ng Leung-sing, 張鐵夫 Zhang Tie-fu, 陳智思 Bernard Charnwut Chan, 范徐麗泰 Rita Fan, 林順潮 Lam, Dennis Shun-chiu, 羅范椒芬 Fanny Law, 胡曉明 Herman Hu, 姚祖輝 Andrew Yao, 黃友嘉 David Wong Yau-kar, 黃玉山 Wong Yuk-Shan, 雷添良 Tim Lui, 蔡素玉 Choy So-yuk, 蔡毅 Cai Yi, 廖長江 Martin Liao, 譚惠珠 Maria Tam, 吳秋北 Ng Chau-pei, 葉國謙 Ip Kwok-him, 顏寶玲 Ngan Po-ling, 霍震寰 Ian Fok Tsun-wan, 劉健儀 Miriam Lau, and 陳振彬 Chan Chung-bun, Bunny.

“Hong Kong has long been a hub for the illegal ivory trade, and suffers from weak ivory licensing controls,” said Alex Hofford of WildAid Hong Kong. “Without using expensive radiocarbon analysis technology it is absolutely impossible for anyone in the market to distinguish so-called legal old stocks from newly poached ivory.” 

The Hong Kong government's inaction on the issue is perpetuating a modern-day elephant poaching crisis. "Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment KS Wong should legislate for a total ban on ivory sales in Hong Kong by setting a reasonable date for the city's ivory traders to finally dispose of their stocks – after which time no more ivory can be legally sold," Hofford said.

Click here for more information on the survey's methodology and findings.