On Tuesday, Hong Kong customs officials in Kowloon found and seized 7.2 tonnes of ivory hidden inside containers of “frozen fish” — a popular hiding spot for smugglers.
In what has been recorded at the city’s “largest ivory bust in 30 years,” authorities arrested one man and two women for attempting to smuggle the $9.2 million worth of ivory into China from Malaysia. Currently, according to the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, the three criminals can face up to HK$5 million ($640k USD) in fines and two years in jail.
Hong Kong has stepped up efforts at cracking down on the ivory trade in recent years. An amendment proposal launched last month would essentially eliminate the trade by 2021 by outlawing ivory’s use in commercial business, as well as banning the possession of any ivory carvings or trophies.
With an estimated 30,000 elephants being killed each year for their tusks, activists see this amendment as a much-needed change. As of 2016, 70 tons of legally registered ivory is currently in Hong Kong, according to the SCMP. The city has been urged by international organizations to implement the bill earlier than originally planned, and this most recent bust would seem to be a pretty compelling reason to do so.
Over the past few years, there has also been a significant effort made by Chinese officials aimed at eradicating the ivory trade from within China’s borders. For example, in 2015, Xi Jinping promised Barack Obama that he would ban the trade of ivory, resulting in the price of illegal ivory dropping by 50%. Unfortunately, major ivory busts still remain a regular occurrence in China, which is the world’s largest consumer of ivory, even as the country has vowed to eliminate the trade by the end of 2017.
Here’s to hoping we can save some elephants.
By Emma Abrams
[Images via HK01.com]
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