Hong Kong failing to tackle wildlife smuggling epidemic

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Elephants are now hunted as much as rhinos. (Photo: Ivory.org)

HONG KONG must do more to crack down on illegal wildlife smuggling by ending legal loopholes and lenient sentences, conservation groups said Monday, as they detailed the city’s role in the lucrative trade.

Despite its comparatively small size, the bustling southern Chinese transport hub plays a “disproportionate” role in wildlife crime, researchers said, accounting for around a fifth of all global ivory seizures and nearly half of all pangolins seized in the last decade.

Yet authorities do not list wildlife trafficking offences under the city’s organised crime legislation targeting drug traffickers and triad gangs and the few who are caught rarely face stiff penalties, the report’s authors warn.

“Wildlife crime in Hong Kong remains under-policed and under-investigated,” said Amanda Witfort, a professor at Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law and one of the report’s authors.

“Wildlife smuggling is not regarded as an organised and serious crime under Hong Kong law,” she added.

The study by Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group, a coalition of local groups, offers one of the most detailed analyses yet on smuggling rackets in the city.

Researchers compiled and analysed 379 seizures from government departments, court cases, media reports and NGOs from January 2013 to December 2017 to assess the extent of the trade. Source: EWN