A new law banning the sale of ivory items took effect on Friday in Hong Kong, a city long considered a major hub for smuggling white gold.
The ban, approved in 2018, was amended shortly after, changing the focus to that of the gradual disappearance of this trade, a decision criticized by environmental defenders.
A study published by a coalition of environmental associations in 2019 found that the enclave, despite its relatively small size, accounted for around a fifth of global ivory seizures in the last decade.
On the eve of the law’s entry into force, some small lines of shoppers formed in front of ivory shops in Sheung Wan district, according to local media.
The law prohibits “the import, re-export, and commercial possession of elephant ivory,” but provides an exception for pre-1925 ivory.
Violators may face fines of up to HK $ 10 million (US $ 1.28 million, or € 1.13 million) and ten years in prison.
The former British colony is a center for the international trade in endangered animal species such as elephants, rhinos and pangolins, in particular because of its port, one of the most important in the world, and its many transport connections.
Most of these products are intended for consumers in mainland China. In 2017, Hong Kong authorities seized more than seven tons of ivory worth more than $ 9 million, the largest such operation in three decades.
The ivory trade ban came into effect in China in 2018.
In August, the former British colony passed a law that considers wildlife trafficking an organized crime.