The largest seizure of ivory tusks in 30 years once again shows that Hong Kong is a major hub for illegal wildlife trade and highlights the urgent need to end the trade, the World Wide Fund (WWF) said today.
Wan Hing-chuen, from Hong Kong Customs said: "Judging from the large quantity of seized ivory, we don't think Hong Kong is the final destination".
The haul of illegal ivory was found in a container shipment from Malaysia.
Ivory is highly sought-after in China, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine or to make ornaments. Upon inspection, Customs officers found the ivory tusks beneath the frozen fish cartons inside the container.
Follow-up investigations led customs to a trading company in Tuen Mun, where they arrested one man - the proprietor of the company - along with two female staffers, aged 42 to 57.
"These tusks represent the lives of hundreds of elephants", said Margaret Kinnaird, the head of the World Wildlife Fund's global Wildlife Practice initiative, noting that almost 90 percent of elephants in one part of Tanzania have disappeared due to poaching in the last four decades. They could each face up to $7 million in fines and nine years in prison for violating the territory's Import and Export Ordinance and Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance.
Trade in ivory has slowed internationally since a 1989 treaty banned it, although Hong Kong shops can still sell ivory which predates the treaty. "This level of support is a vindication of the tremendous efforts made by Hong Kong lawmakers to ensure a future for elephants".