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Retail giant Wing On lauded over move to ban ivory sales (Hong Kong)

Danny Lee, South China Morning Post

27 April, 2014Danny Lee, South China Morning Post

27 April, 2014Retail giant Wing On is banning ivory sales in its stores, in a move hailed as another significant victory in the battle against elephant poaching.

The department store chain has won praise from campaigners for its decision to kick out a tenant that sells products made from elephant tusks.

“With effect from July 7, the business co-operation between Wing On Department Stores and its concession counter, which sells ivory products, will be ceased,” the company said.

Wing On has faced pressure from campaigners since pictures emerged online of a newly renovated ivory sales counter, offering carvings and ornaments, in one of its five Hong Kong stores.

“This is a most important decision. Thank you for this farsighted decision. And thank you in the name of the elephants,” campaigner Birgit Hanan wrote on Wing On’s Facebook page.

Local environmentalists welcomed the retail giant’s move, saying it bolstered efforts to counter demand for ivory, especially from the mainland, where it is a status symbol and sometimes known as “white gold”.

Wing On’s move follows the Hong Kong government’s decision in January to burn almost all of its 30-tonne ivory stock, built up through customs seizures since 1976. “[Our decision is based on] the way we work – always reviewing what we are doing and what the community wants from us,” Wing On executive director Mark Kwok Chi-yat told the Sunday Morning Post.

Campaign group Hong Kong for Elephants co-founder Alex Hofford said Wing On’s move was another victory, but that more work was still needed to stop the sale of “blood ivory”.

“Obviously we are delighted that Wing On has seen fit to turn its back on the dirty ivory trade by joining a growing list of stores in Hong Kong that take their corporate social responsibilities seriously,” Hofford said.

“Wing On definitely deserves a pat on the back,” animal-rights activist and actress Sharon Kwok Sau-wan said.

Activists are now set to turn their attention to Yue Hwa Chinese Products, the last big player in the ivory trade, with a protest scheduled for May 14 at its six-storey emporium in Jordan.

While the sale of ivory remains legal in Hong Kong, buyers are not allowed to take it out of the city. But undercover reporters caught Yue Hwa staff apparently discussing how to flout the export ban.

Kwok said a steady flow of mainland buyers were coming to Hong Kong to seek out authentic ivory products. She called for action against “small stores and ‘holes in the wall’ that are still blatantly selling ivory”.

Wildlife groups fear smugglers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to import and export elephant ivory. Kwok says elephant products are being passed off as mammoth ivory – which is legal to trade – when obtaining customs paperwork.

“It would be great if Hong Kong could ban the ivory trade altogether. It is such a small market,” she said.

One of the last remaining traditional department store chains in Hong Kong, Wing On operates stores in Sheung Wan, Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui, Taikoo Shing and Discovery Bay. But the retail giant’s business has in recent years been squeezed by upscale malls and luxury goods outlets.

The ivory trade has become increasingly lucrative since a worldwide ban was imposed in 1989.

Last year, the Chinese Arts and Crafts chain put a 65kg pair of tusks on sale for HK$15 million – more than 50 times the price it asked for a bigger pair of tusks in 2002. The state-owned chain has since withdrawn ivory from sale in its Hong Kong stores.

 

US bans commercial ivory trade

PHOTO | AFP KWS officer arranging some of 1,099 pieces of ivory tusks a the port of Mombasa August 21, 2013. The United States clamped down on the domestic trade of elephant ivory Tuesday as part of a new drive to help African countries stem the threat to wildlife from poachers.

PHOTO | AFP KWS officer arranging some of 1,099 pieces of ivory tusks a the port of Mombasa August 21, 2013. The United States clamped down on the domestic trade of elephant ivory Tuesday as part of a new drive to help African countries stem the threat to wildlife from poachers.

By AFP

WASHINGTON

The United States clamped down on the domestic trade of elephant ivory Tuesday as part of a new drive to help African countries stem the threat to wildlife from poachers.

The White House administrative action bans all commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, as well as all commercial exports — except for bona fide antiques and certain other items.

The outlawed ivory trade is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhino horns are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments.

Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years where, besides targeting rhinos, gangs eyeing lucrative international markets have slaughtered whole herds of elephants for their tusks.

“This ban is the best way to help ensure that US markets do not contribute to the further decline of African elephants in the wild,” the White House said in a statement.

It said federal departments and agencies would immediately take actions to, among other things, clarify what constitutes an antique.

“To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act.”

“The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter, or seller to demonstrate that an item meets these criteria.”

Other measures include limiting to two the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that can be imported by an individual each year.

The crackdown on ivory is a key aspect of a new national strategy for combating wildlife trafficking, also unveiled Tuesday, that has been in the works for some time.

SIGNED AN ORDER

During a trip to Tanzania last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for a $10 million program to reduce the practice in Africa.

That led to the setting up of a task force to develop the strategy to crack down on the lucrative trade — estimated to be worth between $7 and $10 billion a year.

“The United States will continue to lead global efforts to protect the world’s iconic animals and preserve our planet’s natural beauty for future generations,” the White House said.

America is one of the world’s largest markets for wildlife products, both legal and illegal, according to senior administration officials.

“Much of the trafficking in ivory and other wildlife products either passes through or ends up in the United States and so we are committed to putting an end to the illegal trade in elephant ivory and also other wildlife products,” one official told reporters on a conference all.

Another said that, under the ban, it would be legal to own items made from ivory and gift these to your children or grandchildren — but it would not be legal to sell them.

“We are facing a situation where rhino horn is worth more than its weight in gold. Elephant ivory is going for as much as $1,500 a pound,” the official said.

“So we believe that an outright ban on domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn is appropriate because it will help us be more effective in law enforcement and it will demonstrate a US leadership worldwide.”

“We can’t ask other consumer nations to crack down on their domestic trade and markets unless we’re prepared to do the same here at home.”

The official said there are less than half a million elephants on the African continent today and “estimates are that we are losing as many as 35,000 elephants per year.”

The World Wildlife Fund applauded what it called an ambitious set of actions.

“Today marks a significant milestone in the global fight against wildlife crime,” said the group’s US president and chief executive, Carter Roberts.

The article above can be found in the following link: http://www.nation.co.ke/news/US-bans-commercial-ivory-trade/-/1056/2203064/-/1v7pliz/-/index.html