Hong Kong — The Legislative Council of Hong Kong passed the bill to amend the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (PESAPO), which was proposed by Hon Elizabeth Quat, to include illegal wildlife trade offenses into the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO). With the passing of this legislation, the government can increase its investigative and enforcement power to further combat illegal wildlife trade. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomes the legislation and appreciates the continued support from various sectors.

Jovy Chan, Manager, Wildlife Conservation, WWF-Hong Kong, said “The volume of illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong remains high. However, internationally significant cases have not been pursued by Hong Kong prosecutors owing to the insufficiency of evidence. This legislative amendment confers the power of investigation and enforcement on local enforcement authorities, allowing them to inspect the financial flow associated with this illegal trade, of individuals and companies and confiscate their proceeds of crime. Besides, the amendment to the legislation is beneficial to collecting evidence for prosecutions in a bid to enhance the deterrent effect for the effective tackle of smuggling activities.”

Hong Kong’s record pangolin seizure of 8.3 tons seized, along with 2.1 tons of ivory in 2019 remains unprosecuted because of the lack of evidence. Within the three years between 2018 and 2020, local enforcement authorities seized over 929 tons of wildlife valued at over HK $358 million. 

“Hong Kong is a major transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade. 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,” added Chan.

WWF’s 2020 Living Planet Report reveals a two-thirds decline in wildlife populations on average since 1970, with the illegal wildlife trade being a major threat. Hong Kong is obligated under the Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve biodiversity and utilize resources sustainably. 

Brian Gonzales, Head of Protection of Endangered Species, WWF-Hong Kong, said “The illegal wildlife trade is recognized as a key driver of the continued degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the unsustainable use of precious natural resources. The legislation allows Hong Kong to showcase its determination in being Asia’s World City by deterring illegal wildlife trade and by contributing to global efforts in preventing biodiversity loss.”

Since 2015, WWF has been working to address illegal wildlife trade and strongly advocated for its inclusion in the OSCO, along with other conservation organizations. We welcome this passage of the Bill by the HKSAR Government, and the Bill to ban the local ivory trade with increased penalties to maximum imprisonment term of 10 years for smuggling of endangered species.