We aim to support and advance the conservation of terrestrial and marine biodiversity by working with partners to address both the legal and illegal trade in threatened species across Asia.
Strategy and Focus Areas
Hong Kong, along with Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and China, is an internationally recognised hub for wildlife trafficking.As an Asia based Foundation, our strategy is to work locally and internationally with partners to improve regulation of the wildlife trade regionally, via policy reform and enhanced enforcement of wildlife laws.
Starting with our home-base in Hong Kong, this involves gathering information and data to inform and facilitate dialogue, the development of legislative reform, and engagement with government, policy makers and subject experts. Extensive public engagement is needed to raise awareness and gain support from the community at large. This work is ongoing and the projects below highlight our approach as well as recent and current work streams.
Hong Kong is a
wildlife trafficking hub
Annual value of illegal trade:
Why we care about the wildlife trade
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 26,500 species are threatened with extinction: 41% of amphibians; 25% of mammals; 31% of sharks and rays, 33% of coral reefs; and 14% of birds. These numbers are likely grossly underestimated, since only a small percentage (~6%) of the world’s 1.8 million described species have been assessed.
Not surprisingly, we are facing a biodiversity crisis – the result of habitat loss, pollution, climate change, invasion of alien species and importantly, the growing trade in and increasing consumption/use of wildlife products, almost exclusively for luxury and non-essential purposes.
In 1973, the UN introduced a legally binding treaty, the Convention on International Trade in of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to “ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.”
The following decades saw a steady and latterly dramatic growth in the wildlife trade. This was not foreseen by CITES and spurred the emergence of a vast illegal trade involving the poaching and trafficking of large volumes of wildlife (dead and alive) to supply markets in Asia.
As the populations of targeted species declined and their value to traffickers increased, experts linked wildlife trafficking to the same syndicates involved in human, arms and drugs smuggling.
Across Asia’s regional hubs including Hong Kong, wildlife trafficking has now reached unprecedented levels. Large volumes of high value consignments including ivory, shark fin, live reef food fish, pangolin products, totoaba fish maws, a range of exotic pets (mostly reptiles), rhino horn, and manta ray, amongst many others, are trafficked annually.
In addition to biodiversity loss, this illicit trade represents the stealing of precious resources often with violence, and often in developing countries with significant impacts on local communities and economies.
Globally, the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth in the region US$20billion annually.
With the exception of our shark fin trade work – see our Living Oceans programme, our wildlife trade work starting in earnest in 2015 with the convening of the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group (HKWTWG). The WTWG has provided an effective platform to engage in dialogue with a range of stakeholders and inform lawmakers and policy reform.
Drawing on its members including academics, subject experts , NGOs, and legal professional , the WTWG released the report ‘Wildlife Crime – is Hong Kong doing enough?, a collaborative effort that for the first time made the case to the government that Hong Kong is a trafficking hub and needs to do much more to curb this illegal trade.
Since then, the Group has worked with lawmakers and gained public support for government proposals to phase out of the domestic ivory trade and raise penalties for wildlife crime, enacted in 2018.
Our ‘Wildlife Products Seizure (WiPS) Database is the only data source to consistently shed light on the extent and nature of wildlife trafficking in Hong Kong, providing much needed information on trafficking trends, for a wide range of stakeholders.
Our court monitoring programme informs the work of others including the University of Hong Kong, and its training of judiciary in both Hong Kong and China. It has also demonstrated that the 2018 penalty raise did not deterred wildlife criminals, a seizures continued to rise in the years since.
Our data and research has been documented in our two Trading in Extinction Reports, which demonstrated links with organised crime and provided the basis of a white paper drafted with HKU and legal experts – proposing to bring wildlife crimes under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance. A position that spurred a movement to treat wildlife crime as serious and organizes crime in Hong Kong.
In 2019 we were part of the founding of the transformative ‘Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime’ aiming to take wildlife crime beyond current regulatory frameworks via the creation of international agreements. In 2020 the presidents of Gabon and Costa Rica formally announced support of one of the Initiative’s two objectives, creating 4th protocol under UNTOC.
In 2021, Hong Kong’s legislators voted in favour of adding wildlife offences to the City’s Organize and Serious Crimes Ordinance, signifying a change in approach that if successful will detect, disrupt and ultimately deter regional trafficking networks.
Our Latest Blogs
China, Global, Hong Kong
November 18, 2022
Sophie le Clue
From the 14th-25th November around 2000 researchers, advocates, policy experts, traders and official representatives from up to 184 countries are attending a critical gathering in Panama – the 19th Conference of the Parties ...
November 7, 2022
UNTOC CoP11 side event on ‘How an additional Protocol can help us tackle illicit wildlife trafficking” co-hosted by the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, Gabon and Peru. The side event took place; Friday, 21 ...
September 19, 2022
Las reuniones de la Conferencia de las Partes (CoP) de la Convención sobre el Comercio Internacional de Especies Amenazadas de Fauna y Flora Silvestres (CITES) pueden ser bastante intensas, complejas y, a veces, controvertidas. ...