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Maasai Tribesman Leads Hong Kong Ivory Protest

HONG KONG — About 50 people marched noisily on Saturday through the busy streets of Hong Kong's main ivory trading district of Sheung Wan, putting needed pressure on the Hong Kong government to ban the city's out-of-control ivory trade. It is the fifth such street protest in just two years. 

The latest protest was organized by Sean Lee Davies of Project C:Change and Ted Hodgkinson from Hong Kong's The Elephant Society. The star attraction of the protest, billed by Project C:Change as Hong Kong's first “Maasai March,” was Daniel Ole Sambu, a Maasai warrior from Kenya and Predator Protection Programme Coordinator for Big Life Foundation, a Kenya-based NGO that is fighting illegal poaching and habitat destruction.

As Daniel walked amongst the many stores selling ivory, some possibly poached in his own backyard in Tsavo, Kenya, he appeared visibly shaken. “It’s horrible because all I see are dead elephants,” Daniel told the South China Morning Post.

 

A day earlier, WildAid supporter and Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat introduced a measure aimed at stepping up government efforts to combat wildlife crime and to ban the city's ivory trade. If passed by Hong Kong's 70 legislators next week, the measure would make it much more difficult for the Hong Kong government to further drag its feet on the issue, triggering the legislative process towards a domestic ivory sales ban sooner rather than later.

As the Maasai March concluded and the main group of anti-ivory trade protesters gradually dispersed, events turned ugly. A small group of protestersIvory trader, photo by Alex Hofford including Sean Lee Davies, Daniel Ole Sambu and Jamie Gaymer, Director of Conservation from Ol Jogi Conservancy in Kenya, approached an unnamed ivory trader with a pink Mohawk haircut in front of a store called Antiques & Collectibles in Sheung Wan. The vendor responded with angry shouts and his extended middle finger — an unequivocal gesture of contempt for the elephant conservation movement.

Recent undercover footage provided by independent investigators to WildAid has shown Hong Kong to be a global hub for the illegal laundering of ivory tusks from recently poached African elephants into the city's "legal" ivory market. 

  

Read more: WildAid Investigation Unmasks Hong Kong Ivory Trade Loopholes  

Alex Hofford