Still Trading in Extinction – The Dark Side of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade

Stephen Wiggins Studies Leave a Comment

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Detailed analysis by ADM Capital Foundation suggests that where there are wildlife trade interceptions and prosecutions in the wildlife trafficking hub of Hong Kong, the penalties are not severe and the Kingpins go untouched –  many of those prosecuted being low-level first time offenders. Unless there is a crackdown, then the trafficking abuses will no doubt escalate. The data suggests endangered species trafficking is increasing, which shows the traffickers are diversifying as demand for such ‘luxuries’ (sic) makes it worth the risk….

Still Trading in Extinction – The Dark Side of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade,” ADM Capital Foundation, March 2021

Conclusions “In the three years since the publication of Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong’s Wildlife Trade [January 2019], scientists have continued to sound the alarm concerning increasing biodiversity loss including species extinction, the resulting ecosystem impacts and, importantly, the role of the wildlife trade – both legal and illegal. 

These trades remain alive and well in Hong Kong as evidenced, in part, by wildlife seizure and prosecution data gathered across 2017 to 2020. Clearly, wildlife trafficking continues unabated in the city, despite the government’s efforts in 2018 to deter criminals by raising penalties.

Concerningly, the data indicate increases in the frequency, volumes and values of seizures, continuing an upward trend that has been ongoing for at least a decade. They indicate that the trade provides live animals and wildlife products almost exclusively for luxury and non-essential uses including for ornaments, décor, exotic pets, furniture and traditional medicines.

Many of the species are threatened and all are regulated to prevent their extinction due to pressures from the international trade.

While seizures continue to grow, the data suggest a change in trade dynamics with volumes of the government’s catch-all category “Other Endangered Species” increasing to an all-time high, whereas ivory seizures declined. Pangolin scales remain a staple for local traffickers, which is consistent with the UNODC’s 2020 report that highlights a ten-fold increase in pangolin seizures globally since 2014.

The increase in Other Endangered Species is of concern, not least because of a general lack of transparency concerning the actual species in trade, but because many of those that could be identified, are rare and threatened species destined to be exotic pets, despite their poor suitability for such. Indeed, the limited information available across a number of seizure events, indicate a broad range of species, many of which had not been identified previously in Hong Kong’s publicly available data.


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