Hong Kong makes wildlife trafficking an organised crime

Scales of pangolins are spread on a table form a blue and pink bag
Scales of pangolins Chinese customs officials seized on a ship in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China November 29, 2017, photo: Reuters/Stringer

Hong Kong passed a new law that considers wildlife trafficking an organised crime putting the trade at the same level as drug and human trafficking.

With its busy port and transport links, Hong Kong is a central transit point for the illegal trade in body parts of endangered animals like elephants, pangolins and rhinos, with most animal parts heading to mainland China.

On Wednesday, lawmakers added illegal wildlife smuggling to the city’s Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance; this means more powers for the police and heavier sentences for those convicted.

In October, researchers said Hong Kong was growing as a wildlife smuggling hub because its laws were not strong enough to fight criminal gangs running the wildlife trade. They found that arrests in wildlife crimes were rare.

In the past two years, wildlife seizures reached new peaks. In 2019,
the largest seizure of rhino horn, 82.5 kilograms, was made at the airport.

“Traffickers exploit the Hong Kong Ports for continuous trade of the world’s most endangered species of wild fauna and flora. The volume of trade is on the rise, contributing to the global extinction crisis,” Jovy Chan, wildlife conservation manager from World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong), said.

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