The SPCA has responded to SAI KUNG BUZZ’s story on the new exotic pets shop with a concerned message. Dr Fiona Woodhouse, long-time Deputy Director for Welfare, writes the wildlife trade is “problematic from a conservation and welfare perspective”. Fiona said people must not impulse buy exotic creatures. They should study the characteristics and needs of wild animals before they acquire one. It is better to adopt than purchase from a pet shop, she said.
Fiona attached links to SPCA reports on the worldwide wildlife trade so much of which is controlled by organised crime (https://www.spca.org.hk/en/animal-welfare/wildlife-welfare-hong-kong, https://www.spca.org.hk/en/animal-welfare/wildlife-trade).
NOTE: Before we go on, BUZZ stresses that during our interview at KK Kwok’s new shop we decided KK and his girlfriend are a likeable couple. It is clear they do care for the animals in their possession. KK is registered with AFCD as a wild animal trader and has been for 20 years.
According to the SPCA reports, millions of wild animals suffer and die each year in the world wildlife trade. For some species, the mortality rate is as high as 90 per cent. Smugglers take this into account by shipping large numbers of animals and raising prices. From point of capture to point of sale prices can go up 50 times. Dealing in illegal wildlife is so profitable it tops the cocaine and heroin trades. The business is riddled with organised crime from harvesters to middlemen, mules and corrupt officials.
Fiona pointed out a report entitled “Wildlife Crime: Is Hong Kong Doing Enough?” It is a collaborative effort by City and Hong Kong Universities, World Wildlife Fund, Kadoorie Fund, think tanks and animal welfare organisations.
The wildlife trade entails considerable levels of criminality by transnational organised crime networks, the report said. The illicit trade leads to violence, intimidation, corruption and fraud. “Wildlife trade statistics are rising, but the Government refuses to acknowledge Hong Kong is a major wildlife trafficking hub. The Government must take steps to reduce the flow of vulnerable and threatened animals. The Government is in a position to demonstrate to the local and international communities that although it is a free port, it has zero tolerance for wildlife crime.”
The world wildlife trade is estimated at US$7 to 23 billion a year. In Hong Kong from 2010 to 2014 cases recorded rose 350%. The value of the seizures was $117 million. Yet Customs & Excise estimates it is able to detect only about 10% of the actual trade.
The report said the HKSAR Government should:
— Recognise this is serious organised crime
— Increase maximum sentences for wildlife crime
— Ban the ivory trade
— Actively participate in the global response to wildlife crime
— Assign more resources to combating wildlife crime
— Create a transparent Wildlife Crime Database
— Invest in forensic capability to aid wildlife crime investigation