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Hong Kong announces bill to ban ivory trade

Hong Kong came one step closer to legislating a full ivory trade ban on Tuesday after a heated debate between conservationists and ivory traders.

At a special meeting of the Hong Kong Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs, it was announced that a new bill banning ivory will be put forward on 14 June 2017.

The panel heard 20 remarks in favor of the ivory ban from members of the community, while 15 traders spoke against it. Further, in the weeks prior to the hearing, 275 supportive letters from the public were received, compared to only 40 written anti-ban submissions.

Outside the meeting, a group of 150 supporters of the ivory ban gathered to voice their views. The group included drummers from the African countries of Senegal and Togo, as well as local school children. The young students presented to a government official 300 handwritten cards expressing their "best wishes for elephants."

"We are happy to see the Hong Kong community turn out in force today to protect elephants, to support the government's plan to ban the ivory trade and increase maximum penalties for wildlife crime, and to firmly oppose any attempts to compensate the ivory traders for their stolen goods," said Alex Hofford, Wildlife Campaigner for WildAid. "This level of support is a vindication of the tremendous efforts made by Hong Kong lawmakers to ensure a future for elephants."

Before the ban comes into force, a committee of lawmakers will be appointed to study the proposed bill in detail and propose changes to the final language. That process is expected to occur this fall.

WildAid is calling for the ivory ban to be implemented as soon as possible, for Hong Kong's maximum penalty for wildlife crime to be increased to 10 years imprisonment, and for traders not to be compensated for their ivory stocks, much of which is believed to come from poached African elephants.