The Hong Kong Illegal Ivory Trade Still Thrives...

I get an daily avalanche of press releases from the Hong Kong Government.

Whilst doing a Monday morning back-trawl of my inbox, I found a Hong Kong Government Customs & Excise Department press release with two handout photos (not mine) about a seizure of illegal elephant tusks. According to Customs & Excise, this illegal shipment of ivory came from Nigeria. It was listed as "white wood" on the consignment paperwork.

Here is their press release in full:-

Department: CUSTOMS AND EXCISE DEPARTMENT
Serial No.: GIS201001080257

Unmanifested ivory tusks seized in Kwai Chung (with photos)
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Customs officers yesterday morning (January 7) seized a total of 186 pieces of ivory tusks inside a container shipped to Hong Kong. The ivory tusks were worth about $2 million.

The consignment, declared as 285 pieces of "White Wood" and coming from Nigeria, was shipped to Hong Kong via Malaysia on December 18, 2009.

Officers of the Ports and Maritime Command found 186 pieces of ivory tusks concealed inside the consignment during examination at Kwai Chung Container Terminal. Follow-up investigation is still going on.

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing unmanifested cargoes is liable to a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

In addition, under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, any person found guilty of trading endangered species for commercial purposes is liable to a maximum fine of $5 million and imprisonment for two years.

Ends/Friday, January 8, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:59

 

On a micro and a macro level, I have many many questions about this seizure. But right now it seems that I'm up against a Hong Kong Government brick wall in getting any answers.

1) MICRO

I asked the government spokesman if I could go and take my own pictures of the ivory seizure, and the answer was no. Apparently the "case was closed" on Friday. Does that mean that it's too much trouble for a man with a key to unlock a door to let me in with a camera to take my own photographs? Is this just bureaucracy at its worst? Isn't the government trying to polish its green credentials? If so, allowing greater media access to the problems of the illegal wildlife trade would be a quick and easy way for them to do just that. What is their problem?

I'd also like to know if this consignment bound for mainland China or was it for the Hong Kong market?

Why was there next nothing about this in the local press? From the South China Morning Post a just few lazy 'copy and paste' lines in 'City Digest', with no photos:-

"186 pieces of ivory tusk seized

Customs seized 186 pieces of ivory tusk, worth HK$2 million, during an examination at Kwai Chung Container Terminal. The consignment was declared as 285 pieces of white wood and shipped in from Nigeria via Malaysia to Hong Kong on December 18. Customs is investigating. Anyone found guilty of trading endangered species faces a HK$5 million fine and two years' jail. Austin Chiu"

What I'm getting at here is....where is the sense of outrage in Hong Kong?

2) MACRO

Why, oh why, is this still going on after all these years? Is ivory really still that cool that people still want stuff made out of it? If so, why? Is it not a bit 'lo to', as they say in Cantonese? And does anyone really care about the illegal trade in endangered wildlife parts?

ALEX HOFFORD : HONG KONG CHINA PHOTOGRAPHER

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