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Hong Kong Lawmaker Takes Her Fight Against Blood Ivory to Africa

Isiolo, Kenya (September 9, 2014) – Hong Kong lawmaker Dr. Hon Elizabeth Quat JP has come to Kenya to help build bridges between China and Africa as part of her campaign to stop the buying of ivory and end the killing of elephants. The trip was organized in partnership with WildAid, Save the Elephants, the African Wildlife Foundation, the Northern Rangelands Trust and Stop Ivory.

Africa is in the midst of an escalating poaching crisis. A recent study by Save the Elephants found that around 100,000 elephants were killed for their tusks between 2010 and 2012 driven by demand from the newly affluent consumers in China and Southeast Asia.

While ivory stocks are still sold legally in Hong Kong, the government has taken steps to combat the illegal trade, pledging to destroy its 29.6 tonnes of confiscated illegal ivory by the middle of next year.

Dr. Quat wants her government to do more. As a member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, Dr. Quat is urging Hong Kong to ban ivory sales and join the African led Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), the aim of which is to close down the world’s remaining ivory markets, enact a 10+ year moratorium on the international trade in ivory, and conduct more education and awareness raising initiatives.

"Early this year in London, the governments of Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania jointly launched the African-led Elephant Protection Initiative; an initiative which aims to quickly and decisively address the elephant crisis which is threatening the survival not only of small exposed elephant populations, but also those which have previously been thought secure, thereby undermining the viability of our ecosystems, hindering the economic development of our countries, and threatening our national security. Since the launch, we have seen the EPI gain momentum and support from range and non-range States alike at a variety of International Fora and we hope to continue to galvanize support for this game-changing initiative. Dr. Quat's timely visit to Kenya to get a first hand knowledge of the situation will provide her with the necessary knowledge to make the strongest possible case in Hong Kong in support of a domestic ban on ivory," says Ian Craig, CEO of the Northern Rangelands Trust.

“Hong Kong would be the first consumer nation to ban ivory sales and join the EPI,” explained Dr. Quat. “We’d be taking a strong stand with our brothers and sisters in Africa and setting an example for the rest of the world.”

“With 100,000 elephants killed in three years, the situation with Africa’s elephants is grave indeed. We’ve recorded slaughters before but the current wave of poaching is now being driven by a record demand for ivory at a time when elephant numbers are fewer than ever before. The decline of Africa’s elephants will be inexorable until ivory ceases to be a commodity,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

HONG KONG’S LEGAL MARKET DRIVES AN ILLEGAL TRADE

Between 1970 and 1989, African elephant populations were halved as legal “regulated” trade in ivory enabled laundering of illegal ivory from poached elephants. In response, parties to the Convention of the International Trade of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) passed a ban on international trade in ivory in 1989. Ivory prices plummeted to a quarter of previous levels overnight and poaching decreased, allowing elephant populations to begin to recover.

However, “one-off” legal sales of African ivory stockpiles to China and Japan in 2008, sparked a runaway illegal trade. With the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy, demand for ivory began to surge from 2008 onwards, driving illegal killing of elephants in Africa.

Corruption, poor enforcement of regulations and a lack of prosecutions in Africa have assisted the illegal ivory trade. In addition, groups such as the Janjaweed, the Lord’s Resistance Army and Al Shabaab are alleged to be involved in the trade as a source of financing.

Hong Kong was the historical center of ivory carving and trading industry with 665 tonnes held in stock at the time of the 1989 ban, much of it obtained from dubious sources laundered through legal trade loopholes.

This stock was projected to have been exhausted by 2005 according to government statistics compiled by WildLifeRisk. Yet the trade continues, with more than 117.1 tonnes of ivory still “legally” held by trade at the end of 2013. Data from Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, at the end of 2013, shows that there were 447 registered ivory possession license holders in the city, all of whom remain anonymous due to Hong Kong's privacy laws.

“Traders have had 25 years to sell their stockpiles in Hong Kong, which were obtained at the expense of halving Africa’s elephants. Instead they have held them back to drive up the price. People should not be rewarded for speculating on extinction. Historically these ‘legal’ stocks were used as cover to sell and launder fresh poached ivory, it seems likely those practices have continued and now it’s time to close the loopholes and give the public a clear message ‘say no to ivory’” said Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid.

SEEKING ALLIES AND RAISING AWARENESS

Dr. Quat hopes her trip to Kenya will raise awareness and help build momentum for further action in Hong Kong. “Hong Kong could shut down its ivory market tomorrow, the government just lacks the political will to do so,” explained Dr. Quat. “Coming to Africa and witnessing the realities of elephant poaching first hand has helped me understand the true implications of buying ivory. I hope I can share this awareness with the people of Hong Kong and help end the killing.”

“There is perhaps no better way to understand how extraordinary Africa’s elephants are than to see them in the wild,” says African Wildlife Foundation CEO, Dr. Patrick Bergin. “And by seeing them in the wild, we hope Dr. Quat will become even more determined to advocate on their behalf and to communicate back home that only elephants should be wearing or displaying ivory."

Alex Rhodes, CEO, Stop Ivory, said “Hong Kong has made significant strides this year with the voluntary closing of its three biggest ivory retailers and through commencing the destruction of their confiscated stockpiles. But to save elephants we need the demand to stop. This is best done though a combination of a better-informed public and more stringent regulations that bring domestic laws in sync with the international ban implemented by CITES in 1989. Hong Kong Legislator, Dr. Quat, is doing ground-breaking work bringing awareness of the elephant crisis to Hong Kong and we are so pleased to contribute to this important visit with Save the Elephants and WildAid.”

So far on her trip, Dr. Quat has visited with Save The Elephants and toured their Samburu research camp. Because of poaching, one fifth of all elephant families studied no longer have a matriarch to lead them. Save The Elephants is studying to see how this disruption affects the ability of younger generations to survive without the ecological knowledge gained from their elders. She met with tribal elders of the Samburu village and discussed their cultural connection to Africa’s elephants and how their community has been affected by poaching. She was given a behind the scenes tour of the security and ranger operations at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Northern Rangelands Trust, which has one of the most effective enforcement networks in the conservation world.

Michael Harrison, CEO of Northern Rangelands Trust said, “Our wildlife rangers, employed from the local communities, are now operational in 27 community conservancies in northern Kenya. These rangers are community support staff, wildlife researchers and front line soldiers all rolled into one. They risk their lives everyday protecting the African elephant. But the hard work, dedication and bravery of these rangers will continue to be consumed in an uphill battle unless the countries consuming the ivory stop the demand. We are thrilled to have Dr. Quat visit northern Kenya, and hope this will inspire influential people in other consumer countries to have the courage to follow in her footsteps.”

Dr. Quat will continue to visit with other wildlife conservation NGOs and with the Kenya Wildlife Service throughout the remainder of her trip in order to build relationships and gain a better understanding of the current poaching crisis.

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About WildAid
WildAid is the only organization to focus on reducing the demand for wildlife products. WildAid works with hundreds of Asian and Western political figures, celebrities and business leaders, including the Duke of Cambridge, Yao Ming, Jackie Chan, Edward Norton and Sir Richard Branson, to dissuade people from purchasing endangered wildlife products. WildAid’s public service messages and educational initiatives reach hundreds of millions of people per week in China alone through donated media space. “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

About Save the Elephants
Save the Elephants (STE) works to secure a future for elephants in a rapidly changing world. To battle the current surge in ivory poaching, their Elephant Crisis Fund is identifying and supporting the most effective global partners to stop poaching, thwart traffickers and end demand for ivory. STE provides sophisticated elephant security tracking, community-led intelligence, cutting-edge scientific insights into elephant behaviour and conservation.

About the African Wildlife Foundation
Founded in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF¹s programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa’s people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation‹all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage. AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. For more information, visit www.awf.org and follow us on Twitter @AWF_Official and Facebook at facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeFoundation.

About the Northern Rangelands Trust
The Northern Rangelands Trust supports marginalized communities in northern Kenya to establish their own wildlife conservancies. These conservancies are transforming people's lives, securing peace in a historically volatile area, and conserving natural resources. Communities are safeguarding the future of iconic species such as the African elephant, and earning a living through doing so.”

About Elephant Protection Initiative
The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) is a global initiative launched by Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania which brings African Elephant range States, non-range States, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Private Sector and Private Citizens together to work in partnership to protect elephants and stop the illegal ivory trade through: providing both immediate and longer-term funding to address the Elephant Crisis through full and timely implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan; closing domestic ivory markets in those participating states still operating a domestic market ; observing a moratorium on any consideration of future international trade for a minimum of 10 years and thereafter until African elephant populations are no longer threatened; and agreement to put all stockpiles beyond economic use.

About Stop Ivory
Stop Ivory is a UK registered Charity set up to deliver the aims of the Elephant Protection Initiative and is working with the sponsor governments, IGO’s, NGOs and the Private Sector to deliver the Initiative. To kick-start the process, Stop Ivory committed $2m at the London Conference, which was matched by a $2m pledge by the British Government. Stop Ivory is governed by an experienced international board supported by an Advisory Panel of experts in conservation, diplomacy and business, including the CEOs of the Royal Foundation, Tusk Trust and African Parks; and works closely with the British Foreign Office and DEFRA.

About Legislative Councilor Dr. Hon Elizabeth Quat, JP
Dr. Hon Elizabeth Quat, JP, known as EQ by her peers, is a member of the DAB Central and Standing Committee, and the Chairman of the DAB Women Affairs Committee. She was elected as a Sha Tin East District Councilor in 2012. In 2007, Dr. Quat was elected as a Legislative Councilor for the Sha Tin District and was reelected in 2011. She is also a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and an environmental protection photographer. She is also the author of two books, the most recent of which details her participation with "Elysium" in 2010, in an ice diving expedition in Antarctica to photograph its landscapes. After this event, Dr. Quat returned to Hong Kong to promote the protection of the Earth and marine life, hosting roughly 20 photography exhibitions and 50 community and school talks.