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The Legislative Council of Hong Kong has voted in favor of a domestic ban on ivory trade in January this year.
Hong Kong is the largest market for ivory—a hard material found in animal tusks used to create products like chopsticks, mahjong tiles, ornaments, jewelry, and even Chinese medicines. The territory has been trading the product for over 150 years, and more than 90% of its buyers are from mainland China.
The ivory trade ban will be implemented in three phases. The first phase will involve banning the import and re-export of any ivory acquired after 1975, the year when an international agreement that regulates the trade in animal and plant products was established. The second phase will require all traders to stop selling ivory obtained before 1975. Lastly, the third phase will entail getting rid of all ivory stock by 2021.
Traders who will not comply with the ban may either face a 10-year imprisonment or pay a fine of HK$10 million under the new regulations.
This ban will be to the advantage of elephants, which are the primary sources of animal tusks. Over the years, the high demand for ivory has been fueling more and more elephant killings. According to the Great Elephant Census released in 2016, 8% or around 27,000 elephants die from poaching every year. From 2007 to 2014, the population of African elephants also saw a 30% decline, the census results further revealed.
Aside from elephants, other animal sources of tusks include hippopotamuses, walruses, and narwhals. Like elephants, these animals also face poaching threats because of the ivory trade.