Hong Kong approves ban on local ivory trading by 2021

Hong Kong approves ban on local ivory trading by 2021
Animal conservation activists hold placards and a picture of an elephant outside the Legislative Council, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, to urge Hong Kong lawmakers to approve a ban on ivory sales. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong lawmakers have given final approval to a government proposal banning local ivory trading in the Chinese territory by 2021.

Lawmakers voted Wednesday in favor of amending the existing law to outlaw sales of ivory in Hong Kong, which researchers say is the world’s biggest retail ivory market.

The proposal also includes significantly stiffer penalties for wildlife smuggling to deter black market sales.

Under the new law, the maximum sentence will increase to a 10 million Hong Kong dollar (.3 million) fine or 10 years in prison, up from the current two years.

Wildlife activists applauded the move, even as Hong Kong moves more slowly than Beijing. Mainland China banned ivory sales at the start of the year after shutting all carving factories and shops last March.