By Sam Schenerman
Hong Kong is in the news again. This time it’s not about the lack of democratic rule, or even about the CCP meddling in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. It’s about elephants. Well, part of elephants. Specifically, their tusks. It seems that the port city is a haven for ivory smugglers.
The Elephant in the Room
Hong Kong has long been a trading hub for the illegal smuggling and the trading of endangered animals and animal products. Products like shark fin, pangolin, and ivory are smuggled in and out of Hong Kong daily.
Over 90% of the mainland Chinese ivory trade is conducted in Hong Kong. The US and Singapore have already banned the trade of elephant products. The PRC government says it will officially prohibit all ivory trade by the end of this year—and surely they will enforce that prohibition, just like they put lots of effort into stopping other things that don’t threaten their grip on power.
Wildlife conservation activists have for years tried to put pressure on Hong Kong to stop the illicit trade of endangered wildlife products. Not only is the ivory trade supporting the killing of elephants, but it’s also hurting the people of the African countries where the elephants are slaughtered. According to Erik Mararv, the manager of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 100 elephants are killed every day. Over the past decade, Mararv asserted, more than 100 rangers have been killed trying to protect these endangered animals.
Josias Mungabwa, a former wildlife crime investigator with the Zambian Wildlife Authority Investigations and Intelligence Unit, said the following: “If you are to be in Africa today, you can see how people are suffering. I am pleading with you this trade should come to an end.” These impassioned pleas notwithstanding, Hong Kong officials seem reluctant to implement restrictions or a complete ban on this lucrative trade. But why is that?
Ivory has long been a symbol of wealth and status. In China, where ostentatious displays of wealth are fashionable, ivory has a special place. After all, if you have something illegal or taboo, isn’t it that much cooler? I mean, who cares if it helps poachers drive species into extinction? That just makes your baby elephant tusk statue worth even more!