Govt urged to ban antique and mammoth ivory

Conservationists are calling on the Hong Kong government to ban the sale of antique ivory and mammoth ivory, saying allowing these products to be sold will leave a loophole for the illegal trade of elephant tusks to continue.

Jovy Chan, manager of wildlife conservation at WWF Hong Kong, made the call on Wednesday, about a month before a ban on elephant ivory sales comes into effect.

She said illegal elephant ivory may be passed off as antique ivory dated before July 1925 or mammoth ivory because they look similar, and so they should all be banned.

International elephant ivory sales have been prohibited since the 1990s, and Hong Kong legislated on a ban on local trade in 2018 but gave businesses a five-year grace period for them to clear their stocks.

Some sellers asked for a longer grace period and compensation for unsold stock, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, but Chan said their demand is unreasonable.

“Since 1990, the international trade of ivory has already suspended. They still had more than 30 years to sell all their ivory stock… and also, [the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] has arranged two big auctions to allow the traders to sell the ivory to overseas in the past,” she noted.

“For the compensation, they already have the grace period to help them sell all the ivory, I can’t see the reasons why we need to give them compensation.”

Chan also said a licensing system should be put in place for all the unsold ivory which will become personal property that can only be given out as gifts or exhibited for free.

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