People, Environment

Hong Kong Launches Ivory Ban Bill

The trade would fully come to a close by 2021.The trade would fully come to a close by 2021.

Hong Kong last week launched a landmark bill to ban its ivory trade on Wednesday, describing it as an effort to "eradicate" the illegal poaching of elephants.

The southern Chinese city is a major hub for ivory sales and announced last year that it would ban the import and export of the goods, but later clarified it would only completely abolish the trade by 2021, AFP reported.

Critics say authorities are dragging their feet and lagging behind China, where officials in December pledged to halt the enterprise by the end of 2017.

A new amendment to the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants ordinance was presented to lawmakers Wednesday, designed to toughen regulations and "phase out the local ivory trade", but said it would be a five-year process.

Hong Kong's Environment Minister Wong Kam-sing said the city must respond to the demands of the international community as he formally introduced the bill at the legislative council on Wednesday.

The trade would "fully come to a close" by 2021, he added.

Angry sellers in Hong Kong are demanding payback, claiming they have been unable to offload much of their remaining stock since the market diminished following an international ban nearly three decades ago.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s. There are now believed to be some 415,000.

Lawmaker Regina Ip on Wednesday raised the question of compensation for traders, but Wong said the government would not buy up the ivory as the city was "determined" to close down the market.

African ivory is highly sought after in China, where it is seen as a status symbol, and where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine or to make ornaments.


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