Hippo & elephant ivory, shark fin, pangolins, cockatoo trade

Publishing detailed research (publications) into species-specific wildlife trade issues, and presenting them to policymakers and other stakeholders via multiple platforms: individual meetings with legislators1, national parliamentary address2, regional state meetings3, and international conferences such as CITES CoP4, as well as coverage in multiple media outlets, including National Geographic5, BBC6, Reuters7

Thousands of species of flora and fauna are traded legally for a variety of purposes – as everything from furniture to fashion to medicine. We analysed 20 years of UN trade data, detailing the scale, composition, and trends of legal trade in wildlife products, and indicating opportunities for improvement. The results are due to be published 2020.

Developing forensic tools to detect laundered wildlife

A big problem in wildlife trade enforcement is differentiating legal from illegal wildlife. We found that stable isotope analysis can be used to discern wild-caught from captive-bred yellow-crested cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea), a critically endangered species threatened by overexploitation for the pet trade. This combined forensics tool can be used to help combat laundering in other species. I organised a seminar between the HKU Conservation Forensics Lab and Hong Kong government where we presented how this can be used for cockatoos, tortoises and humphed wrasse.

Large-scale consumer demand surveys

Over 1,000 Hong Kong residents were interviewed about pangolin consumption via random sampling telephone survey in 2015, with ~10% saying they had consumed pangolin meat and ~5% scales. The sample was proportionally representative of the HK population demographically in terms of age, gender, income and education. The survey also revealed that there’s a knowledge gap about pangolins and their legal status – more findings here.


1. Cacatua sulphurea in Hong Kong – issues and solutions, meeting with legislative councillor HON Hui Chi-fung, HKU, 08/2017
2. HK ivory trade endangers African elephants, Meeting of the HKSAR Legislative Council, Hong Kong (minute 36:10-40:00), 08/2017
3. EU member states should include hippo teeth in domestic ivory bans, EU Stakeholder Meeting, CITES CoP18, Geneva, Switzerland, 08/2019
4. Pangolin trade, consumption, and monitoring in Hong Kong, Pangolin side event, CITES CoP18, Geneva, Switzerland, 08/2019
5. Why Is This Country Auctioning Off Hippo Teeth?, National Geographic
6. Costing the Earth, BBC Radio 4 (minute 19:38-21:30) OR How to save the world’s most trafficked mammal, BBC
7. Hong Kong's Battle Against Hippo Ivory Trade, TRT World (Reuters)