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EIA Helps to Convict Illegal Ivory Traders

1 June 2004

A shop located in Kowloon, Hong Kong, was fined over £2,000 for possessing 0.863kg of ivory products without a license. Based on information provided by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and following an investigation by Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), conviction was secured on the 5th May 2004.

EIA's investigations into the ivory trade in Hong Kong Central and Kowloon in October 2003 revealed two shops that were actively trading in ivory. The Kowloon shop sold ivory to Japanese clients. It even displayed a sign in Japanese promoting the sale of 'hankos' - the Japanese term for ivory seals - one of its highest selling products.

The AFCD visited the shops identified in the EIA report and posed as interested buyers. A search operation was then conducted and 0.863 kg of worked ivory was found on the premises. None of the pieces had a valid license.

Hong Kong clearly takes the illegal trade in ivory seriously. Under Hong Kong law, ivory obtained prior to the international ivory trade ban of 1989 and registered with the authorities, can be sold within the territory, but cannot be exported. Furthermore a licence is also required for possession of ivory, and failure to have one may result in stiff penalties, as highlighted by this case.

Dr. Mari Park, EIA's elephant project consultant says; "EIA congratulates AFCD's efforts in combating the illegal ivory trade. However, we are concerned with the huge volume of illegal ivory flooding onto the market presenting a huge challenge to authorities in Asia as well as Africa. Some of the major seizures have not been penalised properly, failing to deter smugglers."

Last October, Hong Kong Customs intercepted two tonnes of ivory that had been smuggled out of Tanzania, yet there were no prosecutions in Hong Kong due to lack of evidence. Similarly, major players in a case involving six tonnes of ivory seized in Singapore in 2002 have not been prosecuted, after nearly two years.

Dr Park continued; "Despite proof of a buoyant international trade in illegal ivory, there is a strong possibility the international community will allow a one-off sale of ivory stockpiles from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to Japan. EIA opposes this sale which may stimulate poaching and the illegal ivory trade, therefore placing further burden on authorities around the world."


For more information, please contact:

Mary Rice

EIA UK: +44 207 354 7984

Ashley Misplon

EIA UK: +44 207 354 7984

Editor's notes:

The Environmental Investigation Agency is an independent, international campaigning organisation dedicated to investigating and exposing environmental crime and protecting the natural environment. EIA has been monitoring the illegal ivory trade since the late 1980s.

The investigations carried out by Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department were based on information provided by EIA in their report 'EIA Findings on Ivory Markets in Hong Kong' in December 2003.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is an international treaty that regulates trade in endangered species of wildlife. Parties to CITES will meet in Thailand, from 2nd,14th October 2004.

Since the ban on ivory trade in 1989, a one-off sale of ivory stocks was first allowed in 1997. Over 50 tonnes of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe was exported to Japan.

The second sale from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa was proposed in November 2002. Japan is the only importing country that has shown interest to date. The sale will go ahead if conditions have been met.