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Local ivory trade to be phased out
     The Government announced today (December 21) that the Chief Executive in Council has approved the proposed plan to phase out the local ivory trade.

     The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, said, "The Government is committed to the protection of endangered species and we are very concerned about the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa. Hong Kong has a duty to be part of international efforts and practices in enhancing protection for elephants.

     "The Government is preparing amendments to the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance to effect a three-step plan to phase out the local trade in ivory in a single legislative exercise, which will be submitted to the Legislative Council in the first half of 2017."

     Step one of the plan is to immediately ban the import and re-export of all elephant hunting trophies and those remaining post-Convention ivory (i.e. ivory acquired after the CITES provisions started to apply to elephants) items, the import, export and re-export of which are currently permissible under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), upon the commencement of the amendment legislation. This will discourage the further killing of elephants.

     Step two is to ban the import and re-export of pre-Convention ivory (i.e. ivory acquired before the CITES provisions started to apply to elephants) and subject pre-Convention ivory in the local market to licensing control three months after the ban in step one. It would be an offence to possess pre-Convention ivory for commercial purposes without a Licence to Possess. This step will further prevent the possible laundering of illegal ivory and contribute to the conservation of wild elephants.

     Step three is to ban the possession for commercial purposes of all ivory which will take effect on December 31, 2021, after a grace period of about five years. The measures to be implemented in steps two and three will not be applicable to antique ivory.

     To prepare for the total ban of local ivory trade in step three, all the Licences to Possess to be issued, extended, renewed or varied on or after December 31, 2016 will expire on or before December 30, 2021.

     Except under certain specific circumstances such as scientific studies, education, law enforcement and training, international trade in ivory has been virtually banned since 1990.

     With a grace period of suitable length in place, it is unlikely that the phasing out of the local ivory trade would cause much impact as many ivory traders have already undergone business transformation or switched to the trading of commodities not under CITES control over the years.

     In order to provide a sufficiently strong deterrent against illicit wildlife trade, and to send a clear message to the international and local communities that the Government is committed to the protection of endangered species and to combating wildlife trafficking, the Government will also increase the penalties under the Ordinance by amending the Ordinance in the same legislative exercise. This will include imposing uniform maximum penalties for both commercial and non-commercial summary offences, promulgating a new set of penalties for offences convicted on indictment and increasing the maximum fine and imprisonment term.
Ends/Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:03
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