By Christy Choi
The Chinese Arts and Crafts chain appears to have bowed to public pressure and is no longer selling elephant ivory in its Hong Kong stores.
"We only sell mammoth tusk," an employee of the company said yesterday, but declined to elaborate.
In the middle of last month, two staff members at two Hong Kong handicrafts shops - Chinese Arts and Crafts and the landmark Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium in Mong Kok - were caught on film offering tips to undercover reporters on how to smuggle ivory products through customs, drawing the ire of conservationists. Around the same time, more than 40 countries including China and African states signed a declaration in London, aimed at stamping out the illegal trade in wildlife.
At all four Chinese Arts and Crafts outlets the Sunday Morning Post visited, all carvings were labelled as mammoth tusk.
"We have no ivory here," a manager for the Tsim Sha Tsui branch told a group of about 20 pupils and parents from Clearwater Bay School protesting against the trade.
The children said they wanted to see the trade in both ivory and mammoth tusk completely eliminated, since mammoth tusk carvings would set up an appetite for more ivory products.
"I just want to ask you, would you rather take a jewel and a life, or have no jewel and save a life?" Giacomo Fahy, 10, said.
"I'm not sure if I believe [the shops\," David Schneider, a cancer doctor and parent to one of the protesting boys, said. "They could just be keeping them in the back."
Shopkeepers are allowed to trade ivory that dates back before a global trade ban went into force in 1989. Mammoths are extinct, but their tusks, preserved in the tundra in places such as Siberia, are often dug up.
"You can tell the difference because they have a different line because they were underground for a long time," the employee said. "The tusk is not hard and is easily broken."
Hong Kong has increasingly found itself a transport hub for ivory, with seizures totalling 37.8 tonnes since 1976. The government began this year to destroy some of its stockpile of seized ivory to deter the trade.