VICTORY! Hong Kong Says It Will Ban the Ivory Trade

Finally —  some good news about the ivory trade.

In a historical move, Hong Kong announced Wednesday that it plans to ban the domestic ivory trade.

Speaking during his annual policy address, Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said, ” The government is very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa. It will kickstart legislative procedures as soon as possible to ban the import and export of elephant hunting trophies.”

He added that it would “impose heavier penalties on smuggling and illegal trading of endangered species.”

However, Chung-ying did not specify when the ban would take place.

Hong Kong is one of the busiest hubs for ivory trade in the world. “Hong Kong has always been the dark heart of the ivory trade,” Alex Hofford of WildAid Hong Kong, told CNN. “This is where you place an order for poaching in Africa.”

The Guardian reports that “according to official figures, 242 tonnes of ivory were sold in Hong Kong between 1990 and 2008, an average of around 13 tonnes a year.” But since 2010, sales have dropped to a tonne a year.

The ban was good news to animal activists — as long as it is implemented sooner rather than later.

“We are delighted that the Hong Kong government has finally announced that they will start to phase out the local ivory trade,” Hofford told AFP. “We’re now urging the chief executive to set a timeline and follow through with concrete action as soon as possible.”

Peter Knights of WildAid said in a statement that the announcement was a “historic step,” adding the end of the trade “may be in sight.”

Just last September China, together with the U.S., pledged to ban the ivory trade. Since then, California, following New York’s lead, also implemented sweeping ivory bans.