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Hong Kong failing to tackle illegal wildlife trade – study

Elephant foot trophies

According to the National Wildlife Repository website, “Much of the world’s trade – both legal and illegal – in wild animal and plant species is driven by U.S. consumers, originates in our country or passes through our ports on the way to other nations” © Britta Jaschinski / PHOTOGRAPHERS AGAINST WILDLIFE CRIME™

Press release by Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group (HKWTWG)/ADM Capital Foundation (ADMCF)

Hong Kong’s illegal wildlife trade is contributing to a global extinction crisis. Every year millions of live animals, plants and their derivatives are illegally trafficked into and through Hong Kong, by transnational companies and organised crime syndicates.

There is an urgent need for the government to enhance its current enforcement strategy against wildlife smuggling. Over the last decade, the diversity of endangered species imported into Hong Kong has increased by 57%. At the same time, the estimated value of the trade has increased by 1,600%. Since 2013, seizures of illegal ivory, pangolin scales and rhino horn have been made by Hong Kong authorities, potentially equating to the deaths of 3,000 elephants, 65,000 pangolins and 51 rhinoceros.

Mass seizure of pangolins inside shipping container

Some of the bodies of approximately 4,000 pangolins defrosting after their seizure, hidden inside a shipping container at a port in Sumatra, Indonesia. © Paul Hilton / PHOTOGRAPHERS AGAINST WILDLIFE CRIME™

Hong Kong’s illegal wildlife trade is increasing in volume, underestimated in value and contributing to the global extinction crisis.

Some members of the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group (HKWTWG) have joined forces to publish a study focusing on the type and volume of seizures relating to illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong over the last five years. The findings documented in the 200 page report: Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade, illustrate the city’s central role in global wildlife trafficking and the extent and nature of the associated criminality. It identifies clearly, how future policy and enforcement could be improved to provide the urgently required long-term sustainability.

Stockpile of ivory in Zimbabwe

The vast stockpile of confiscated elephant tusks inside Zimbabwe’s ivory vault in Harare. In 2016, the vault held more than 90 tonnes of ivory. © Adrian Steirn / PHOTOGRAPHERS AGAINST WILDLIFE CRIME™

Associate Professor Amanda Whitfort of the Faculty of Law, one of the authors of the report said: “Wildlife crime in Hong Kong remains under-policed and under-investigated. Wildlife smuggling is not regarded as organised and serious crime, under Hong Kong law. Failure to include wildlife smuggling as a crime under the Organised and Serious Crime ordinance, Cap 455, hampers authorities’ powers to effectively prosecute those behind the networks and syndicates that take advantage of Hong Kong’s position as a major trading port.”

“Our research indicates Hong Kong has become a hub for organised wildlife smugglers, with consequences for the international reputation of our city as well as international biodiversity,” said Lisa Genasci, CEO of ADMCF, adding that “Extinction of elephants, rhino, pangolin and many other species in our lifetime is on the horizon, unless the illegal trade is stopped.”

Poached black rhino

Barely 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild. Many end their lives like this bull in South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, shot dead by poachers who hacked off its horns and fled during the night. © Brent Stirton / PHOTOGRAPHERS AGAINST WILDLIFE CRIME™

ABOUT THE HONG KONG WILDLIFE TRADE WORKING GROUP (HKWTWG)

Established in 2015, the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group is a loose coalition of Non-Government Organisations, academics, legal professionals and experts in Hong Kong, with a specific interest in the wildlife trade. The report Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong Wildlife Trade is a collaborative effort of some of its members including:
ADM Capital Foundation (ADMCF), Animals Asia, Bloom Association (HK), The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Civic Exchange, Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF), Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG), The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Teng Hoi Conservation Organisation, University of St. Andrews, WildAid and WWF-Hong Kong.



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