Chinese state media reported on Friday that the country will ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, in a move hailed by activists as a game-changer for Africa’s elephants.
China has banned the ivory trade. https://t.co/nmYn0×4kRU— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) December 30, 2016
The announcement follows Beijing’s move in March to widen a ban on imports of all ivory and ivory products acquired before 1975 after pressure to restrict a trade that sees thousands of elephants slaughtered every year.
African ivory is highly sought after in China where it is seen as a status symbol and prices for a kilo can fetch as much as $1,100.
Xinhua said the complete ban would affect “34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with dozens to be closed by the end of March 2017”.
The international ivory trade was banned in 1989, but domestic markets around the world have continued to make poaching and illegal trade to continue presenting a major threat to the survival of elephants around the world. For many still seeking ivory despite the damage it does to dwindling elephant populations, China has been the best place to look, with about 70 percent of the world’s ivory trade taking place within its border, the BBC reports.
Conservationists estimate that more than 20,000 elephants were killed for their ivory last year, with similar tolls in previous years. The WWF campaign group says that only 415,000 of the animals remain in the wild.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which took effect in 1975, banned the ivory trade in 1989.
Like other countries, China permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban – and also has a stockpile purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification, the Guardian reports.
It further says that the WWF also praised China’s move to a complete ban but called on the Chinese territory of Hong Kong to bring forward a plan to end its ivory trade by 2021.
“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,” said Cheryl Lo, senior wildlife crime officer at the WWF.Follow @Muisyo_