According to Alex Hofford, Hong Kong for Elephants representative who spoke out at a peaceful demonstration against legal ivory sales in Hong Kong, the total amount of legal ivory has only shifted by a few kilos in the past three years. The Hong Kong Government statistics state that apparently, there was 116.5 tonnes in 2011, 118.7 tonnes in 2012, and 117.1 tonnes in 2013.
The stockpiled ivory may not have shifted in regards to figures, but there are a total of 447 ivory license holders in Hong Kong; retailers which are only permitted to trade stockpiled ivory (ivory obtained before the ban 1989), as stipulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Many believe the lack of loss of stockpiled ivory to be due to the creation of a loophole through which freshly poached ivory is laundered by traders into a quasi-legal market in Hong Kong, which provides access to mainland China – the region of the world where the greatest demands exist.
“Hong Kong’s ivory traders have had more than 25 years to clear out their pre-1989 ban ivory stocks,” says Hofford, “But are still holding onto them so that they can provide a cover for new ivory to be sold.”
Is this true? Are thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos being killed every year when, in the countries that hold the most demand for their ivory, there are still over one hundred tonnes of ivory stockpiled, under the watch of the government?