Hong Kong, crossroads of the criminal wildlife trade

by:CAI YI JIE     2019-10-12
On a Tuesday night in December 2017, after dark, the van stopped at Island House Lane on the outskirts of Tai Po, a calm street consisting of residential and community garden plots. High-
As the streets gradually extend to the cobblestone beach, the high-rise buildings give way to the lush forest.
Opposite the port is the Toro Strait, with jagged green hills stretching to the coast of Guangdong province, China.
A speedboat waited on the water.
People began unloading on the beach.
When officers from Hong Kong Customs arrived, the ships fled to the sea.
Navy officers chased them for two hours and then lost them at the rocky bay of the channel and at the mangrove estuary.
However, the police were able to recover some of the contraband from the van.
Mobile phones, digital cameras and tablets are worth about $1 million.
In addition, the agents found more than 300 kilograms (
More than 660 pounds)
Smooth brown scales, each several inches wide, look like they were peeled off from some prehistoric reptiles.
In fact, they came from pangolin. size, forest-
Living mammals with similar armorclad anteater.
Pangolin meat is a delicacy in southern China, where it is on the verge of extinction, and its scales are considered to be an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
Over the past decade, the animal has been hunted in much of Southeast Asia, and in Central Africa, the animal is being poached at an alarming rate.
The rarity of pangolin increases its value
The value of the goods seized in Tai Po is about 300,000 yuan.
In the geographical position of illegal wildlife trade, Hong Kong occupies a unique and important position.
It is a city that has built its reputation and economy as a friction-free connector for the country and capital, located at the doorstep of mainland China --
The world\'s most greedy wildlife market.
In the past decade, the appetite of the booming Chinese middle and upper classes has
Traditional jewelry, art (
Although it is often not credible in science)
Remedies and exotic food
The global black market for wildlife has been greatly expanded, and species in Africa, Southeast Asia and other regions have been significantly extinct.
Pangolin is the latest victim: four of the eight pangolin species are now on the verge of extinction, and international trade in pangolin products has been banned since 2016.
Researchers at the ADM Capital foundation of Hong Kong
Focusing on environmental issues, the organization recently analyzed data on customs seizure of wildlife products.
In a report published last month by the Hong Kong wildlife trade working group (a consortium including the Foundation), researchers found that pangolin was seized more in the region than in any country.
Hong Kong seized fish scales and bodies from 2013 to 2017 metric tons of pangolin
Representing thousands of animals.
Goods arrived from six countries, mainly Cameroon and Nigeria.
According to the latest figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, between 2013 and 2015 alone, the number of interceptions was equivalent to 45% of pangolin products seized worldwide from 2007 to 2015.
Although the data analyzed by the Foundation did not include 2018, seizures of pangolin almost doubled from 2017 to 2018.
On January 2019, the Hong Kong authorities intercepted the largest-
The cargo ship from Nigeria to Vietnam shipped pangolin, a total of 9 tons.
Pangolin products appear to be sold mainly to mainland China.
Although it is not difficult to find in Hong Kong. On the well-
On Queen\'s Road, which was sold in the upper ring area, a shop assistant presided over a counter full of dried Medlar, almonds and mung beans to provide pangolin scales to customers who asked.
\"We sell a lot and we have been doing it for a long time,\" she said . \". One liang—
Hong Kong is equivalent to the Chinese standard of about 37 years old. 5 grams —
Retail price is HK $300 ($38).
\"It\'s quite luxurious,\" she said . \"
While the store is careful not to keep the product in the store, she says it\'s easy to make a phone call and ship it within half an hour so it doesn\'t get found across the border.
\"We will grind it into powder,\" she said . \".
To avoid getting caught, she suggested, \"Don\'t get too much at a time.
\"In recent years, as people have become increasingly vigilant about the ecological consequences of the illegal wildlife trade and its links to other forms of crime and security threats, many countries have greatly strengthened their response, strengthen the law and increase the resources to enforce it.
In the United States, wildlife trafficking is now often prosecuted under muscular tissue. crime statutes.
The United Nations described wildlife trade as \"one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities.
Environmental activists in Hong Kong say Hong Kong opposes the trend.
While other countries with political and law enforcement capacity to combat wildlife trafficking have already started doing so, the territorial government --
Relatively aggressive in fighting corruption, organized crime and other diseases --
Although a large part of illegal trade passes through airports and shipping terminals in the territory, it does not seem willing to follow suit.
Hong Kong Customs estimates that wildlife contraband seized in Hong Kong over the past five years
Mainly pangolin, ivory and wood.
Worth more than $71 million, this figure shows the possibility of a billion dollars.
Illegal Industries.
However, environmental and law enforcement officials often refuse to accept the view that these seizures indicate a serious criminal enterprise.
\"We don\'t have very strong evidence that organized crime is organising the Hong Kong wildlife trade,\" Xie said . \"
Wan, deputy secretary-general for environmental affairs of Hong Kong, was interviewed on August.
Less than 20% of the found pangolin products resulted in prosecution. (
According to customs, no charges have been made in the December 2017 speedboat smuggling case. )
Cases involving Ivory
The largest volume of illegal wildlife seizures in Hong Kong, by value, was $26.
Total value of 3 million yuan from 2013 to 2017
More likely to be prosecuted.
But the number of arrests rarely exceeds the number of individual couriers known as \"ant smugglers\" who were caught in red
Paid at the airport, usually spent more than a few weeks in prison, and the fine was not much.
Officials are reluctant to crack down on illegal wildlife trade, in part because of the territory\'s long history and perhaps the world\'s leading main course for legitimate wildlife products.
The city is culturally and physically adjacent to Guangdong province, the center of traditional Chinese medicine and ivory crafts for centuries, where wildlife food consumption is also ingrained.
Hong Kong is also close to Fujian province, a coastal area known for its carvings, where there are many illegal wildlife products.
Rhino horn, horn, Rosewood-
Become High
High-end jewelry, trinkets and statues for the Chinese market.
Hong Kong\'s century-old history as a British territory has allowed it to connect with merchants from former African colonies who trade with ivory, rhino horn and animal skins cherished by consumers around the world.
Until it was banned in 1989, the city had been the center of the international ivory trade, importing up to 700 tons of ivory from Africa each year, reaching a peak of 1970 tons.
Hong Kong has been a major importer and exporter of shark fin for many years.
Popular Cantonese soup.
According to the latest statistics, the territory leads the world in the import of live fish and reptiles.
This legal trade can be seen everywhere in neighborhoods such as the Sheung Wan business district, where stores packed with dried seahorses and Bird\'s Nest are packed with streets under Kardashians billboards.
Environmental activists blame this legitimate business activity for complicating Hong Kong\'s efforts as a key node in global illegal trade.
For example, once they have been skinned and dried for sale, the fins of the endangered scallop hammerhead shark are almost impossible to distinguish from the fins of the blue shark legally captured by the Hong Kong seafood store.
In the dried fish adders --
It is also a very popular soup.
Hanging in the same shop window, it is also difficult to distinguish sustainable species from totoaba\'s fish adders, an endangered fish that is illegally caught along the Pacific coast of Mexico, it will also push the finless porpoise vaquita, which is often caught by fishing nets, to the edge of extinction.
The huge growth in shipping and global connectivity has made the markets of these species relentlessly efficient and fast --moving.
\"I want to know,\" said Timothy C. \"What is the next species ? \"
Bonebrake, a biologist at the University of Hong Kong\'s conservation and Evidence Lab, assists local law enforcement agencies in analyzing wildlife contraband.
\"Is there a way you can actively stop these things before they are on the verge of extinction, and of course, in Hong Kong we see that there will always be new species, all the time.
\"The efforts of the Hong Kong wildlife import patrol have also been hampered by the scale of regional commerce where an economy is based on an unimpeded movement.
In Hong Kong, the world\'s fifth largest port, most of the seized pangolins appear in containers, and it will be a daunting task to inspect a small portion of nearly 21 million containers each year.
Ivory and rhino horn from Africa are increasingly arriving via Hong Kong International Airport, which is the eighth in the world in terms of air transportmost-
Sold by passengers
\"We are serious about law enforcement and prosecution,\" Deputy Minister of Environment Tse said . \".
\"But we have to accept the fact that Hong Kong is a Freeport, and it offers a lot of opportunities for this kind of activity.
We have thousands of goods coming in and out of the city every day.
Xie tse believes that in the face of these daunting challenges, the biggest hope for reducing Hong Kong\'s role in the illegal wildlife trade is to reduce the demand for legitimate products from local consumers.
He noted that the consumption of shark fin in the territory decreased by 50% per cent between 2007 and 2017.
\"I think the community has begun to accept the fact that it should be phased out if it is not good for the environment,\" he said . \".
\"The world is changing. ”
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