Hong Kong’s illegal ivory trade still alive, despite pledge to ban sales

The United States and China recently committed to nearly total bans of the ivory trade, hoping to curb the poaching of elephants who are killed for their tusks. But China still remains the world's biggest ivory consumer. NewsHour's Christopher Booker reports.

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  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Hong Kong is one of the largest ivory smuggling hubs in the world.

    Despite a 25-year-old international ban on the import and export of elephant tusks, poachers kill an estimated 33-thousand African elephants every year. They find a ready market in in an increasingly affluent China, especially for jewelry and statues made of ivory.

    Now, the conservation group WildAid, along with the World Wildlife Fund, is calling new attention to the problem.

  • SOT PETER KNIGHTS, CEO, WILDAID:

    The traders we've interviewed in undercover interviews, what they're saying is that 'we can bring in new ivory, no problem, we can get paperwork for it'. It's basically Hong Kong is an ivory laundry where illegal ivory can come in and once it's here, the people with the permits have legal right to sell it.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    In this undercover video obtained by WildAid and the World Wildlife Fund, you can see a shopkeeper explain how lax Chinese regulations make it easy to import ivory into China.

  • TRADER:

    I can buy smuggled ivory anytime but do you dare receive them? If you dare, then I will send them. I will send them to you from Africa.

  • BUYER:

    Directly from Africa? That is great.

  • TRADER:

    If you dare to buy. We have no problem in selling, but whether you dare to receive them is another issue.

  • BUYER:

    From where of Africa?

  • TRADER:

    Anywhere.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    In Hong Kong, licensed vendors are allowed to sell ivory they obtained before the 1989 ban, but the supply of ivory items has not diminished as expected, raising questions about whether vendors are "topping up" their supplies with new ivory.

    Wild Aid & the World Wildlife Fund estimate there are currently 111 tons of ivory for sale still in Hong Kong shops, and while the U.S. and China have pledged to increase efforts to end the ivory trade, the conservation groups are advocating for an outright ban of all ivory sales in Hong Kong.

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