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WildAid to Hong Kong: Stop Ivory Imports that Fuel Poaching

To fight the illegal ivory trade that’s fueling an elephant poaching epidemic in Africa, WildAid has joined a coalition of over 50 international elephant conservation and animal welfare groups in calling on the Hong Kong Government to stop issuing any new import licenses and re-export licenses for pre-Convention elephant ivory.

What does this mean, and how might this action help save Africa’s elephants?

“Pre-Convention” ivory refers to ivory that was in circulation prior to the 1975 establishment of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement to ensure that trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The European Union is the primary exporter of alleged pre-Convention ivory, much of it imported by Hong Kong with the ultimate destination of mainland China's ivory carving factories. 

But Hong Kong's ivory traders are routinely exploiting legal loopholes in the Hong Kong law, which enables them to legally import raw and cut elephant tusks from Europe and then launder recently poached ivory taken from illegally-killed elephants into the legal market using government supplied paperwork.

Traders are then turning a blind eye to where the ivory goes, as criminal buyers of pre-Convention raw ivory smuggle it across Hong Kong's internationally recognized border with China to feed an insatiable demand from the mainland's ivory carving factories.

On Tuesday, a coalition of NGOs including WildAid co-signed and sent a letter to Wong Kam-sing, Hong Kong's Secretary for the Environment calling on the Hong Kong Government to stop issuing any new import licenses and re-export licenses for pre-Convention elephant ivory.

United in solidarity, and concerned by the protection and future of the elephant species, the 51 NGOs demand that Hong Kong suspend the import and re-export from its territory of elephant ivory in the form of raw and cut tusks. 

This coalition represents both the demand and supply sides of the ivory trade, and are based in African elephant range States, the main ivory exporting countries in Europe, and in China and Hong Kong - the world's largest ivory importing country and region.

We believe that if this avenue on the supply chain of “new material” to mainland China's ivory carving factories could be severed, it would be a crucial win for elephants. Such a move by Hong Kong would also greatly help similar initiatives being taken in an increasing number of countries to reduce the international trade in ivory.

So far, the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have all adopted such restrictive measures. A strong campaign by the NGO coalition is also being mounted to extend these measures to all member States of the European Union. 

Here's the full letter with signatories: 

Distinguished Secretary for the Environment,

Tens of thousands of elephants are poached every year for their ivory to supply the Hong Kong and mainland China markets. Most African range States make tremendous efforts to protect live elephants. Hong Kong expressed its determination to tackle the illegal ivory trade and has destroyed over half of its seized ivory stock. We congratulate you for taking these actions.

According to the CITES-UNEP-WCMC trade database, in 2013 Hong Kong imported 206 elephant tusks, including 191 from the European Union. These importations of so called pre-convention ivory drive demand and thus may accelerate poaching. Moreover, there are concerns that re-export certificates issued by exporting countries are being re-used in importing countries to launder ivory from freshly poached elephants. Failures in checks and controls can enable to feed Hong Kong's legal market with illegal ivory.

Some countries, such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Sweden, France and the Netherlands have suspended the re-export of raw ivory from their territories. It is essential that complementary measures are taken by importing countries in demand markets.

Therefore, the 51 non-governmental organizations signing this letter urge you to suspend the import and re-export of raw and cut ivory in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

Such a step would reduce the trafficker’s room for maneuver and will facilitate the control of the legality of ivory in the numerous retail shops in Hong Kong. It will also be added proof of your determination and commitment to eradicate illegal trade of ivory and it will contribute to the protection of elephants.

We thank you for your support. Yours faithfully

Charlotte Nithart (coordinator)

Director, Robin des Bois

Alex Hofford

Wildlife Campaigner, WildAid Hong Kong


ADM Capital Foundation, Lisa Genasci, Hong Kong Amboseli Trust for Elephant, Prof. Phyllis Lee, Kenya

Animals Asia Foundation 亞洲動物基金, Dr Jill Robinson OBE, Hong Kong

Animal Defenders International, Jan Creamer, United Kingdom

Aqua-Meridian (ACE Foundation), Sharon Kwok, Hong Kong

Association pour la Protection des Animaux Sauvages (ASPAS), Marc Giraud, France Awely, Des animaux et des hommes, Renaud Fulconis, France

Born Free Foundation, Adam Roberts, United Kingdom

Born Free USA, Adam Roberts, USA

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Rob Brandford, Kenya

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Sally Case, United Kingdom

EAGLE Network (Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement), Ofir Drori, Cameroun Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness (ECCEA), Mona George-Dill, Dominica

Ecovision, Lisa Christensen, Hong Kong

ElephantVoices, Dr. Joyce Poole and Petter Granli, Norway / USA

Elephant Action League, Andrea Crosta, USA

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Allan Thornton, United Kingdom

Ecologie sans frontière, Franck Laval, France

Energy Saving & Environment Concern Alliance (ESECA), Elizabeth Quat, Hong Kong Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis, Reha Hutin, France

Fondation Brigitte Bardot, Christophe Marie, France

Fondation Franz Weber, Vera Weber, Switzerland

Friends of the Elephant (Vrienden van de Olifant), Rob Faber, Netherlands

Greenpeace East Asia, Gloria Chang, Hong Kong

Greensense, Roy Tam, Hong Kong

Humane Society International, Iris Ho, USA

Humane Society of Canada, Michael O'Sullivan, Canada

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Grace Ge Gabriel 葛芮

Institut Jane Goodall France, Cyril Michel, France

Jane Goodall Institute China, Ms Juan Chen, China

Jane Goodall Institute Hong Kong, Alan Seigrist, Hong Kong

L214, Brigitte Gothiere, France

Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, France

Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Jonathan Vaughan, Malawi

Mille Traces, Jean-Marie Ouary, France

OSCAP (Outraged South African Citizens Against Rhino Poaching), Allison Thomson, South Africa PETA Asia Pacific, Jason Baker, Hong Kong

Performing Animal Welfare Society, Catherine Doyle, USA

Prowildlife, Daniela Freyer, Germany

Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V, Daniela Köstner, Germany

Save The Elephants, Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, United Kingdom / Kenya

Sens Afrique Solidaire, Delphine Thibaut, France

Species Survival Network (SSN), Will Travers

WILDAFRICA Save African Animals, Radek Klimes, Czech Republic

Wildlife At Risk International (WAR) Marleen Le Febvre, Nederlands

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Edwin Wiek, Thailand

Wildlife Friends International, Geert Drieman, The Netherlands

WildLifeRisk, Paul Hilton, Hong Kong

WWF Hong Kong, Gavin Edwards, Hong Kong