Ivory Banned In Hong Kong Following Historic Vote
Hong Kong has voted to ban the trade in ivory, with campaigners referring to the historic change 'a lifeline for elephants'.
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for Wednesday's bill, which will abolish the trade by 2021.
"Today is a great day for elephants. Hong Kong has always been the 'heart of darkness' of the ivory trade with a 670-tonne stockpile when international trade was banned in 1989," said Alex Hofford from conservation group WildAid Hong Kong.
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Bert Wander of the global advocacy group Avaaz also said: "Shutting down this massive ivory market has thrown a lifeline to elephants."
The controversial trade will be phased out in three phases, with the initial stage banning hunting trophies and ivory from after 1975 - which was when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took effect.
Ivory obtained before 1975 will be included in the ban at a later date, with the final move seeing traders obliged to dispose of their stock by 2021.
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Hong Kong has a long history with ivory from animal tusk, which has been traded in the area for more than 150 years, the BBC reports. It's also considered the world's largest ivory market.
WildAid Hong Kong says that Hong Kong had a 670-tonne stockpile when the global ivory trade was banned in 1989.
Over 90% of those buying ivory in Hong Kong come from the Chinese mainlaid - where a similar ban is now in place after China shut down its legal, government-sanctioned ivory trading in December last year.
As a result, China's 172 licensed ivory-carving factories and shops selling ivory have been forced to close.
Wildlife groups estimate that around 30,000 elephants are killed by poachers in Africa every year, and with the ban in China campaigners were hopeful that this number would be greatly reduced, as the country is widely believed to be the biggest consumer of ivory.
A spokesperson from WildAid said: "We can start 2018 hopeful that elephants will be safer now China has banned commercial ivory sales."
Senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund and board member of wildlife trade monitoring organisation TRAFFIC Ginette Hemley said: "By closing its ivory markets, China is showing its commitment to end its role in the poaching epidemic plaguing Africa's elephants.
"It is critical that efforts to enact the ivory trade ban are accompanied by efforts to change consumer behaviour in order to reduce demand."
Featured Image Credit: PA