World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is calling for an urgent clamp down on international organized ivory trade syndicates, as customs officers in Kwai Chung, Hong Kong report their seizure of approximately 7.2 tonnes of ivory in a shipping container inbound from Malaysia, earlier this week. Forensic investigations are currently underway to determine the exact quantity and source of the illegal consignment, which was declared as frozen fish, and could be the largest in 30 years.
While WWF commends the vigilance shown by Hong Kong's authorities in intercepting this illegal consignment, and making crucial arrests, the size of the seizure is a stark reminder of the staggering scale of the global trade in ivory and the devastating impact it has on elephant numbers. Every year, on average, more than 20,000 elephants are killed for their tusks in Africa alone.
"These tusks represent the lives of hundreds of elephants. In the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, for instance, almost 90 percent of elephants have disappeared due to poaching in the last 40 years with only about 15,000 remaining. WWF and other partners are working with the government of Tanzania on the ground to recover the elephant population but the magnitude of recent seizures in Asia only serves to highlight the enormity of the task ahead," said Margaret Kinnaird, leader of WWF's global Wildlife Practice.
"Hong Kong is currently in the midst of reviewing its illegal wildlife trade legislation and we hope that this process will yield swift results. Rigorous enforcement of legislation including increased cross-border engagement, monitoring and intelligence-sharing and further tightening of customs controls are needed to bring an end to what is a lucrative business run by international organized crime syndicates," added Dr Kinnaird.
"This week's massive seizure once again demonstrates that Hong Kong remains a major hub for illegal wildlife trade and we hope that the Legislative Council, which is scheduled to host the first bill committee meeting on 7 July, will swiftly ban the illegal trade in ivory and pass tougher penalties for illegal wildlife trade," said Cheryl Lo, senior wildlife crime officer, WWF-Hong Kong.
Hong Kong ranks 5th globally in ivory contraband with 33,000 kg seized between 2000 and 2013. The latest seizure is almost one-tenth of the recorded ivory stock (77,000 kg) in Hong Kong.