Letters | Is Hong Kong doing enough to disrupt the illegal wildlife trade?

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Rescued radiated tortoises at Kadoorie Farm in Tai Po on June 15. Photo: Edmond So

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The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took place in Panama City in mid-November last year. The conference adopted 46 proposals to regulate the international trade, adding over 500 species to the list, including sharks, birds, reptiles, and more than 100 tree species. These amendments came into force this year on February 23, 90 days after the meeting ended.

Hong Kong is a signatory to CITES, and the city is a major transition hub in the illegal global wildlife trade network. However, it took the government about 16 months to embed the COP18 amendments in the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586).

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has just said that the department will table the latest proposed amendments to the Legislative Council in the fourth quarter of this year and the effective date will be scheduled in early 2024.

Surveys have shown that literally millions of endangered live animals, and products from endangered flora and fauna, are traded either in or through Hong Kong each year. Therefore, timely adoption of these amendments will help regulate the wildlife trade and showcase Hong Kong’s commitment to the international convention.

Additionally, Hong Kong should also designate an independent scientific authority to provide advice on the international trade of wild animals and plants and the protection of local species from wildlife trade-related issues. Each party to CITES is obligated to designate one or more scientific authorities, which are responsible for maintaining the effective implementation of the treaty.

The scientific authority should be separated from the management authority, which oversees the regulation of international trade of CITES-regulated species and implementation of and compliance with the convention.

Take ivory investigation as an example. Hong Kong authorities are currently unable to carry out scientific analysis themselves to determine the age, origin, or species of the ivory traded in the city or confiscated by customs officers. A dedicated CITES scientific authority could streamline age determination and species differentiation, enhancing ivory investigation and strengthening enforcement actions.


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To safeguard biodiversity, Hong Kong has a responsibility to implement stricter measures for the import and export of CITES Appendix species. It also requires additional resources to demonstrate its commitment to combating the illegal wildlife trade.

Jovy Chan, manager, wildlife conservation, WWF-Hong Kong

Golf course redevelopment not worth ecological cost

I am in full support of the letter, “Nature should not pay the price for new public flats in Hong Kong” (March 5). Like many, I thought taking away one of the three courses at Fanling was a great idea and a minor inconvenience for the club. Golf is perceived as sport for the rich and so the club should give back to the community.

My mind was completely changed after taking a tour of the 111-year-old golf course and learning how important the green richness of the course is to our environment and wildlife. Hundreds of trees, some a century old, including rare endangered species, could be cut down. Flattening and paving over the rolling site, a natural sponge for heavy rains, may affect the natural rain water absorption in the area.

A government technical study published in 2019 noted the presence of species of ecological significance on the site including the brown fish owl, musked palm and small Indian civets, red Muntjac deer and leopard cats. In addition, the golf course study also identified several species of bats.

According to the club, it has provided free access for nearly 800 local residents and golf classes for local children. The course, once reduced in size, will no longer be eligible to host major international golf tournaments, which contributes income and visibility to Hong Kong.

The most shocking aspect of the golf course tour was at the end when you see a rendering of the wall of 12 high-rise buildings towering over the course. There must be better ways of providing affordable housing, such as in the planned Northern Metropolis and mixed-income developments, which allow children to grow up in positive environments seeing different lifestyles that they too can achieve.

There is no reason to use any part of the golf course for public housing; we have more than 1,000 hectares of brownfield sites, begging for improvement. Hong Kong needs to think further ahead and be innovative – we have the talent in this city to provide better solutions.

J Lee Rofkind, Mid-Levels

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