Sustainable Wildlife Trade

Sustainable Wildlife Trade

23 October, 2014
Civic Exchange
The need for sustainable wildlife trade: What Hong Kong can do?

Wild animals have been used for food and ornaments for centuries, such as whales, pangolins, crocodiles, freshwater turtles and sharks. In recent decades, some of these animals have become threatened or endangered due to the over-exploitation to meet the regional and/or international needs.
Hong Kong is an important regional hub for wildlife trade and the related products, including some endangered and threatened species which are listed on the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  However, the general public may not be aware of what are being listed on CITES, the source country of wildlife products and what species are being traded.
Civic Exchange has selected four common commodities in global wildlife trade to examine the current state of wildlife trade in Hong Kong, namely elephant ivory, timber, shark fins and live reef food fish.
These four cases illustrated the gaps in law enforcement and sustainability standards in Hong Kong, and the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade on the natural environment. For instance, despite strict trade bans since 1989, the illegal trade in ivory has still proliferated. Hong Kong appears to be a prominent stop along the illegal ivory trade route, with volumes intercepted increasing in the past 3 years.
Facing these challenges, a firm commitment by the HKSAR Government to combat illegal wildlife trade and to establish sustainable wildlife trade is essential. Below are some key recommendations that HKSAR Government should take in order to establish sustainable wildlife trade in Hong Kong in long term.
Key Recommendations
Cross broader and/or organisational cooperation is needed to enhance the efforts of wildlife law enforcement, share information on illegal trade activities and identify the best practices to combat illegal wildlife trade. Some kinds of incentives should also be given to the trading or logistic companies for cooperation in combating illegal wildlife trade.
Trade transparency and monitoring system should be improved through further advancement of the custom codes that enable the identification of the species. Systematic tracing scheme should be established using appropriate species marking, such as microchips, tags and barcodes, as proof of legal origins once the wildlife product reaches the local market.
In order to modify the whole wildlife trading pattern, we have to change the thoughts which are deeply-rooted in people. One of the key solutions is education. We have to raise the public awareness on the ecological value of the wildlife species which are over-exploited in excess. Also, alternatives or replacements with similar or even better nutritious or appreciation values compared to the threatened or endangered species should be provided.
Hong Kong can become a catalyst for sustainable wildlife trade worldwide because of its unique location and history in wildlife trade. While Hong Kong is currently formulating a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP), species which are imported from elsewhere should also be included within BSAP framework. An action plan for the wildlife trade, that involves the contribution of various relevant stakeholders, should be formulated and acted timely. Thus, it leads to strong actions to reduce Hong Kong’s ecological footprint.
For further information related to the development of sustainable wildlife trade in Hong Kong, please refer to the report - Taking from the wild: Moving towards sustainability in Hong Kong’s wildlife trade published by Civic Exchange in September 2014. The report is available for download at Civic Exchange’s website.

By: Karen Lee, Senior Project Manager, Civic Exchange


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