Hong Kong announces plan for total ban on ivory trade

Hong Kong is the world's largest legal ivory market

Hong Kong has announced it will impose a "total ban" on ivory trading, a move welcomed by wildlife campaigners.

Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, said on Wednesday the ban will brought in as quickly as possible.

"It will be a total ban, as to the matter of timing, we will do it expeditiously - as quickly as we can," he said.

Hong Kong is the world's largest legal market for ivory, with 413 registered dealers working there.

But it is also a major hub for illegal ivory sales, most of those going across the border to mainland China.

Vendors can only buy and sell old ivory imported before 1989, but it is easy for unscrupulous dealers to pass of new imports as old ivory.

The island said last year it would "consider" ending the trade, but it appears it has stepped up its plans.

Poachers slaughter about 30,000 African elephants a year for their ivory

Wildlife activists welcomed the move, saying it would help end the global trade in illegal ivory which threatens elephants in Africa.

About 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered by poachers each year for their ivory.

Mary-Jane Attwood of The Tusk Trust warned that unless something was done to address the illegal ivory trade, the African elephant would become extinct in as little as ten years.

"People are talking now about 10 to 15 years ... that the entire elephant population across Africa could disappear, if the current poaching rates are allowed to continue," she said.