China, one of the biggest purveyors of ivory, has announced an end to sales while at the same time Hong Kong, which is a Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China, continues to be actively engaged in the industry.
This month, China announced it had put into full effect a ban on ivory sales. It had announced its intention in 2016 along with the U.S. that it would end legal sales of ivory in an effort to protect elephants. But Hong Kong, a major port and international financial powerhouse, will continue to trade in ivory for the next five years.
The legal ivory trade and illegal poaching of elephants has led to an enormous drop in their population. At least one-third of elephants, or 144,000 were lost to the world between 2007-2014. While the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the ivory trade in 1989 it allowed for a one-time sale in 2008 of older ivory that unscrupulous merchants used to peddle ivory from elephants illegally slaughtered.
While China says that in addition to shuttering its retail and carving shops, it is initiating a public education “say no to ivory” campaign that will include videos, posters and social media posts to alert the public about the ban, elephants will continue to be endangered as Hong Kong, reportedly home to the world’s biggest ivory market, will act as a safe haven for the industry and buyers will continue to smuggle ivory into mainland China.
A new bill introduced in Hong Kong seeks to close the legality gap. But under the bill a ban on the import or export of raw and carved ivory and the possession of ivory obtained before 1990 wouldn’t take effect until 2021. Additionally, the trade continues to be legal in other countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Japan.