ADMCF aims to support the conservation of terrestrial and marine biodiversity by working with partners to address both the legal and illegal trade in threatened species in Asia.
Strategy and Focus Areas
Hong Kong, along with Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and China, is an internationally recognised hub for wildlife trafficking and as such plays an important role in global networks that supply poached wildlife across Asia.
As a Hong Kong-based Foundation, our strategy is to work with local and global partners to improve regulation of the wildlife trade in Hong Kong via legislative reform and to facilitate enhanced enforcement of wildlife laws.
This necessarily involves gathering information and data to inform and facilitate dialogue, the development of legislative proposals and engagement with the government and policy makers. At the same time extensive public engagement is needed to ensure support from the community at large. This work is ongoing and the projects below highlight our approach and recent and current workstreams.
Hong Kong is a
wildlife trafficking hub
Annual value of illegal trade:
Why we care about wildlife trade
In 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that 26,500 species were threatened with extinction including 41% of amphibians, 25% of mammals, 31% of sharks and rays, 33% of coral reefs and 14% of birds. Considering only a small percentage (~6%) of the nearly 1.8 million described species have been analysed, this number is likely a gross underestimate. The reasons for this situation include habitat loss, pollution, climate change, invasion of alien species, overexploitation and, importantly, the growing trade in and increasing consumption/use of wildlife products almost exclusively for luxury and non-essential purposes. Driven by increasing affluence and demand in Asia, these trades are pushing many species towards extinction.
In recent years, wildlife trafficking has reached unprecedented levels. Large volumes and high value consignments of illegal wildlife, including (but not limited to) ivory, shark fin, live reef food fish, pangolin products, totoaba, a range of exotic pets (mostly reptiles), rhino horn, and manta ray, have been (and continue to be) trafficked through Hong Kong, annually.
The situation persists in large part because of Hong Kong’s proximity to demand centres for wildlife products and the city’s efficient free port providing a gateway to China. Hong Kong is also home to one of the busiest deepwater ports and airports in the world, that facilitate vast trade flows into Asia annually.
Despite legislative changes in 2018 phasing out of the domestic ivory trade and increasing trafficking penalties, the city’s legislature, has not kept pace with the global increase in the wildlife trade and in wildlife crime. Instead the Hong Kong government continues to focus on prosecuting individuals carrying relatively small volumes of wildlife contraband, rather than investigating the networks behind these individuals and the containers seized carrying large volumes of illegal products. Consequently, the new penalties are unlikely to have a deterrent effect on those orchestrating the networks.
Further, wildlife trafficking facilitated by international networks and syndicates is not addressed as serious and organised by the city’s legislature, despite mounting evidence to indicate this. Wildlife crime thus remains a high-profit, low-risk industry set to continue.
The impact of our wildlife programme can be observed directly via a combination of change in government policy, trade-related metrics where available and indirectly through the production and outreach of our research, as well as the resulting dialogue and actions of our partners. Our impact can therefore be attributed to the combined efforts of dedicated funders, partners and grantees.
The wildlife trade focus of our work is relatively recent, starting in earnest in 2015 with the convening of the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group (HKWTWG). In 2015, HKWTWG 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 trade. Since then, we have seen the Hong Kong Government ban the domestic trade in ivory and raise penalties for wildlife crime. Our ‘Wildlife Products Seizure (WiPS) Database continues to shed light on the extent and nature of wildlife trafficking in Hong Kong. Our research report ‘Trading in Extinction‘ which further analysed the links with organised crime and has been widely disseminated and used in multiple events internationally and cited widely both in others’ research and in dialogue. It has informed the drafting of a Hong Kong policy paper to bring wildlife crimes under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance, a position that is now familiar to the government, and has spurred a movement to take wildlife crime beyond the current regulatory framework via the creation of a transformative international initiative
Our seeding of the journalist collective ‘The Pangolin Reports‘ has successfully demonstrated the power of collaborative environmental journalism, with over 30 journalists from 13 newsroom across Asia and in Africa publishing over 115 stories, culminating in the global report ‘Trafficked to Extinction’. This work has exposed trafficking networks, informed the enforcement authorities and raised public awareness, as we endeavour to draw attention to the crisis facing the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world.
Our court monitoring programme continues to inform the work of others including the University of Hong Kong and has demonstrated that the government’s raise in penalties is beginning to translate into higher penalties on the ground.
Our Latest Blogs
November 19, 2020
Sophie le Clue
On November 2nd, ADMCF in conjunction with the Hong Kong University Law faculty released a white paper that outlined the rationale and mechanisms for Hong Kong to make a step change and treat wildlife crime in the city as the ...
September 7, 2020
We are amidst a pandemic and consequent global economic crisis that show just how vulnerable we have made ourselves by ignoring how we interact with wildlife and the natural world. Despite the risks inherent in wildlife trade, ...
Global, Hong Kong
June 18, 2020
Sophie le Clue
Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) have the unenviable job of policing the flow of goods into and out of one of the world’s biggest trading hubs – Hong Kong. The city is home to one of the busiest airports ...