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Facing Public Pressure, Hong Kong Will Phase Out Ivory Trade

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (far left) meets with conservation advocates including WildAid's Alex Hofford (right)

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. 

With Historic Vote, Hong Kong Ivory Trade Losing Support

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.

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Elephant Ivory Prices Plummeting in China, Experts Report

Elephant ivory is plummeting in value throughout China, according to new data released Monday by Save the Elephants. Despite soaring prices for illegal ivory from 2010 to 2014, researchers Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne report that raw ivory prices in China have fallen by half over the past 18 months — from $2,100 (USD) per kilogram to $1,100. 

In their survey of eight Chinese cities, the researchers observed that consumer demand for ivory is in apparent free-fall. China’s ivory carving factories reported a severe shortage in tusks, and government-issued IDs required to legally sell ivory had been delayed. Save the Elephants will publish Martin and Vigne’s full findings next month.

The new data coincides with broader awareness and changing attitudes in China, where public knowledge of Africa’s elephant-poaching crisis doubled from 2012 to 2014, according to a March report by WildAid, Save the Elephants and African Wildlife Foundation. At the same time, the Chinese government has made progressive steps to control the illegal ivory market, culminating in President Xi Jinping’s September announcement that China and the United States would work together to halt the ivory trade.

Thai Soccer Stars Join WildAid to Fight Ivory Trade

WildAid's "Ivory Free" message is spreading throughout East and Southeast Asia, and now includes a campaign in Thailand, a primary market for ivory products.

Joining such WildAid ambassadors as Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa are three popular sports stars: Coach "Zico" Kiatisuk Senmamuang of Thailand’s national football team, and rising soccer players "Jay" Chanathip Songkrasin and "Kong" Kroekrit Thaweekarn, who recently came together to film a PSA in Bangkok for the campaign.

Maasai Tribesman Leads Hong Kong Ivory Protest

HONG KONG — About 50 people marched noisily through the busy streets of Hong Kong's main ivory trading district of Sheung Wan on Saturday, once again calling 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. According to the South China Morning Post, Daniel said, “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 on Wednesday 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.

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Honoring WildAid's Ambassadors for 'An Evening in Africa'

Last night, Team WildAid was beyond proud to celebrate our international ambassadors in Los Angeles, as we work together to end the illicit trade in ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products that are driving a global poaching crisis.

The event, hosted by the Montage Beverly Hills, raised over $2.5 million to support WildAid’s programs throughout the world. In only a few short months, we’ve expanded our mission to include programs in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Thailand, in addition to our established work in countries such as China and Vietnam. The support of WildAid donors is vital to our work; thank you so much!

We also had the privilege of awarding actress Maggie Q with our 2015 Wildlife Champion Award. A WildAid ambassador since 2012, Maggie stars in the “Ivory Free” campaign, urging consumers not to buy ivory products, as well as the “I’m FINished with Fins” campaign against shark fin soup. She has filmed several PSAs, and has participated in multiple photo shoots and media interviews to help raise awareness of the plight of animals around the world.

Joining Maggie at Saturday’s gala were Fergie & Josh Duhamel, Paula Abdul, Chevy & Jayni Chase, Tanzanian music artist Alikiba, Kristin Bauer, Michael Cudlitz, Bo Derek & John Corbett, Junior Nyong’o, Amy Tan and many, many more devoted WildAid supporters.

WildAid Report Shows Loopholes in Hong Kong Ivory Regulation

HONG KONG (23 October 2015) — Hong Kong’s “legal” ivory market is willfully obstructing newly announced efforts by China and the United States to end ivory sales, at a time when thousands of African elephants are dying at the hands of poachers, according to a new report released by WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation with accompanying undercover footage provided to the organizations. 

While China and the US have recently pledged landmark commitments to halt the ivory trade, the Hong Kong government has resisted such a move. Officials from Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) continue to insist “the Hong Kong government has strict control mechanism in place over sale of ivory” and is comparable to other nations. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Over several months, investigators uncovered overwhelming evidence of ivory traders flouting licensing regulations with impunity, coaching tourists on how to smuggle purchased ivory, and routinely replenishing legally held ivory stocks with illegal ivory laundered into Hong Kong from recently poached African elephants. Click here to download the full report.

WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation call on the Hong Kong government to ban ivory sales, and to conduct an independent inquiry to address longstanding regulatory loopholes and illegal smuggling.

Pressure Mounts for Hong Kong to Ban Ivory Trade

With the United States and China making public commitments to halt the ivory trade, pressure is mounting fast for Hong Kong to do the same. 

Due to its high overall trade volumes, easy access to mainland China, and lax regulation and supervision, Hong Kong is a global hub for the ivory trade. Licensed vendors can legally sell ivory obtained prior to the 1989 international ban on the commercial ivory trade. But the "legal" market is replenshing its original stock with ivory from recently poached elephants.

Two hard-hitting reports out Wednesday uncover this illicit trade that is fuelling the elephant poaching epidemic in Africa. The Washington Post reports that while American and Chinese pledges to enact near-complete bans is historic, the "spotlight is turning to Hong Kong."

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Prince William Gives Historic Wildlife Address to the Chinese People

In a historic address to the Chinese people, the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) has urged China "to turn the tide of extinction" and reject the illegal wildlife trade that's driving the slaughter of endangered species.  

"I am absolutely convinced that China can become a global leader in the protection of wildlife," Prince William said Monday in remarks to be broadcast on Chinese state TV channel CCTV1. "Your influence in the world means you can change the face of conservation in this century. This will be a contribution that would go down in history, one that your great grandchildren would speak of with great pride."

The address coincides with this week's official state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will be a guest of Buckingham Palace for four days. "[W]e have seen a groundswell of action by governments to improve their laws and to work across borders to fight the traffickers," Prince William said. "Only last month, President Xi announced that China would take steps to halt the domestic trade in ivory, adding to the ban on ivory carving imports he announced in February. But we know the illegal wildlife trade cannot be solved by governments alone. The spotlight falls back on all of us, and on the choices we have to make to play our parts in addressing this problem."

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Elephants Targeted with Cyanide in Zimbabwe

Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed at least 40 elephants in recent weeks using a particularly cruel and efficient method: cyanide poisoning.

The Washington Post reports that poachers have used industrial-grade cyanide to poison watering holes and salt licks favored by elephants in Hwange National Park, a Connecticut-sized reserve located on the border with Botswana. Cyancide-laced oranges have also been used, and species not targeted by poachers were among the victims.

Park rangers found the carcasses of 26 elephants on Tuesday, a week after 14 other animals were found poisoned. No arrests have been made in the case.

“Any person with wildlife at heart would be worried about the method with which these poachers are killing wildlife,” Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, said in an interview with the Post.

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