CHINA is pushing to ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of next year, a move that is being celebrated by activists as a “game-changer” for African elephants, whose ivory is highly valued in China.
Ivory from African elephants is often seen as a status symbol, reports AFP, and just one kilogram of ivory can be worth up to US$1,100.
Chinese state media reported the announcement, citing a government statement that said: “Before that deadline, law enforcement agencies will continue to clamp down on illegalities associated with the elephant’s tusk.”
— Gordon Buchanan (@gordonjbuchanan) December 30, 2016
Aili Kang, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Asia, said in a statement: “This is great news that will shut down the world’s largest market for elephant ivory.
“I am very proud of my country for showing this leadership that will help ensure that elephants have a fighting chance to beat extinction. This is a game changer for Africa’s elephants,” she added.
The ban will affect 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, reported the state-owned Xinhua news agency. It added that “dozens” of these facilities will be closed by the end of March 2017.
According to the New York Times, China’s move to crack down on the ivory trade is the result of “negotiations at senior levels between Washington and Beijing”. China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in 2015 to impose “near complete bans on ivory import and export” as well as make significant moves to stop the domestic commercial trade of ivory.
In June, the U.S. announced a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory, but exceptions include antiques. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest consumer of illegal ivory, after China.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a statement praising China’s move but urged Hong Kong to follow suit and put forward its own plan to end the ivory trade by 2021.
Cheryl Lo, senior wildlife crime officer at WWF, said: “With China’s market closed, Hong Kong can become a preferred market for traffickers to launder illegal ivory under cover of the legal ivory trade.”