Leav­ing Ivory in the Wild

On Jan­uary 1, 2018, China banned all trade in ivory, im­pos­ing stiff penal­ties on any­one caught buy­ing or sell­ing ivory prod­ucts in the Chi­nese main­land. Since then, ev­ery trad­ing mar­ket for ivory prod­ucts in the e Chi­nese main­land has been shut down, resu

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Chong Yatu

About three months ago, Kenyan wildlife con­ser­va­tion­ist Daphne Sheldrick, known to many as “ele­phants’ adopted mother,” passed away at 83 af­ter de­vot­ing her whole life to ele­phant pro­tec­tion. Her book The­o­r­phan­sof Tsavo touched many Chi­nese peo­ple and il­lu­mi­nated them about the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the an­i­mal.

On Jan­uary 1, 2018, China banned all trade in ivory, im­pos­ing stiff penal­ties on any­one caught buy­ing or sell­ing ivory prod­ucts in the Chi­nese main­land.

Since then, ev­ery trad­ing mar­ket for ivory prod­ucts in the Chi­nese main­land has been shut down, re­sult­ing in a dra­matic drop in ivory prod­uct trad­ing. A Good Model

Ivory art­ware has played an im­por­tant role in tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture and many Chi­nese peo­ple still adore ivory prod­ucts. So, for a long time, ivory trade was ac­cept­able in China.

But in re­cent years, the pub­lic aware­ness about ele­phant pro­tec­tion has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially. In 2016, China an­nounced a ban on all ivory trade and pro­cess­ing ac­tiv­i­ties by the end of 2017. Dur­ing the six months af­ter the ban went into ef­fect, China shut down 172 com­pa­nies en­gaged in pro­cess­ing or sell­ing ivory and sus­pended on­line re­tail­ers while strength­en­ing the fight against il­le­gal trans­port­ing and smug­gling of ivory and ivory prod­ucts.

On May 29, 2018, a crack­down against ivory smug­gling by Bei­jing Cus­toms seized six tusks—the 13th such bust this year. Since the be­gin­ning of 2018, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has launched spe­cial cam­paigns to fight en­dan­gered

species smug­gling in­clud­ing ivory, con­fis­cat­ing 158 ivory artworks and bust­ing a dozen smug­gling rings.

“The ban is the fruit of the ef­forts of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and in­sight­ful ac­tivists from across China and around the world,” de­clares Pro­fes­sor Qin Tian­bao, vice dean of the School of Law and director of the Re­search In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­men­tal Law at Wuhan Uni­ver­sity. “Ivory trad­ing is still le­gal in many coun­tries, which wor­ries an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions be­cause hunters have con­sid­er­able eco­nomic mo­ti­va­tion to kill ele­phants.” Qin be­lieves China’s move to ban ivory trade sets a shin­ing ex­am­ple for other coun­tries.

Mar­ket Ef­fects

Many an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions hail China’s ban as a “mile­stone for global wildlife pro­tec­tion.” Peter Knights, founder of Wil­daid, pro­claimed, “China’s exit from ivory trade is the great­est sin­gle step to­wards re­duc­ing ele­phant poach­ing.” And he called for other coun­tries to fol­low.

China has con­sis­tently been mon­i­tored by an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions be­cause Asian coun­tries in­clud­ing China com­pose se an im­por­tant con­sumer mar­ket for r ivory. Due to his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and nd tra­di­tional fac­tors in many Asian coun­tries which are home to an­cient ent civ­i­liza­tions, many peo­ple re­main fond of ex­quis­ite ivory prod­ucts, con­sid­er­ing them a sym­bol of so­cial ial status and iden­tity.

In the past five years, about 150,000 ele­phants were killed by poach­ing, one ev­ery 15 min­utes. At that rate, the largest mam­mal on the he

planet will be ex­tinct in 15 years. This grim fore­cast prompted China’s is­suance of the ban.

Only a hand­ful of coun­tries and re­gions in the world have an­nounced bans on ivory trade. The United States banned the trade in June 2016, and China’s Hong Kong is ex­pected to erad­i­cate ivory trad­ing grad­u­ally by 2021. How­ever, many Euro­pean and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries have yet to en­act sim­i­lar re­stric­tions.

“The three largest trad­ing mar­kets for ivory—the Chi­nese main­land, Hong Kong and the United States—have al­ready out­lawed ivory trade or are in the process of elim­i­nat­ing it,” notes Qin. “Other coun­tries will fol­low.”

Data has al­ready ev­i­denced the ef­fec­tive­ness of China’s ban. Ac­cord­ing to TRAF­FIC, a wildlife trade mon­i­tor­ing net­work, when China had barely an­nounced its plan to pro­hibit ivory trade two years ago, the do­mes­tic price of ivory dropped by 50 per­cent. And in the first half of 2018, China’s Cus­toms saw a 50 per­cent drop in smug­gling busts from the high­est level in pre­vi­ous years.

The de­clin­ing price has greatly low­ered the prof­its for smug­glers and poach­ers, which has re­duced il­le­gal hunt­ing in African coun­tries. The Kenya Wildlife Ser­vice de­clared that the pop­u­la­tion of ele­phants killed by poach­ers in Kenya de­creased to 46 in 2017, a big drop com­pared to 390 in 2013. Mean­while, in 2017 poach­ing crimes in Tanzania fell down by 55 per­cent com­pared to 2015.

Re­main­ing Chal­lenges

On Jan­uary 29, 2018, WWF, TRAF­FIC and China Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion jointly held an in­ter­na­tional sym­po­sium. At the event, lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, cor­po­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tives and other at­ten­dees pre­sented con­struc­tive sug­ges­tions while prais­ing China’s ban on ivory trade.

Some lo­cal gov­ern­ments re­vealed that due to the ban, some ivoryre­lated com­pa­nies had gone out of busi­ness, sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact­ing tax rev­enue, em­ploy­ment and even so­cial sta­bil­ity. Es­pe­cially for some se­nior crafts­men, it is near im­pos­si­ble to aban­don a life­time of ex­pe­ri­ence to be­gin work­ing a dif­fer­ent job. Smoothen­ing the tran­si­tion is a daunt­ing task for lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

And some ar­gue that af­ter more than 2,000 years of devel­op­ment, ivory carv­ing has be­come an im­por­tant in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage in China. Since the ban went into ef­fect, tra­di­tional carvers have been left without ma­te­rial on which to work and an ac­cept­able al­ter­na­tive has yet to emerge.

Pro­fes­sor Qin also stressed the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion. He be­lieves that pro­tect­ing wild an­i­mals re­quires co­or­di­na­tion across var­i­ous sec­tors in mul­ti­ple coun­tries in­clud­ing wildlife rangers, trans­porta­tion providers and re­tail­ers. Merely re­strict­ing the con­sumer mar­ket is far from enough.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is look­ing at the is­sue from all an­gles. On May 8, 2018, Chi­nese of­fi­cials met with their Ugan­dan coun­ter­parts in Kam­pala and reached an agree­ment to jointly com­bat traf­fick­ing of wild an­i­mals and plants. From June 5 to 7, 2018, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment spon­sored lec­tures in Malawi and Tanzania on pro­tect­ing wild an­i­mals and plants and elim­i­nat­ing wildlife traf­fick­ing.

May 29, 2015: More than six hun­dred kilo­grams of con­fis­cated ivory and ivory prod­ucts are shown to the me­dia be­fore be­ing de­stroyed in Bei­jing by China's State Forestry Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms. VCG

June 21, 2018: An ele­phant drinks at a wa­ter­ing hole in the Am­boseli Na­tional Park. In the past five years, about 150,000 ele­phants were killed by poach­ing, one ev­ery 15 min­utes. At this rate, the largest mam­mal on the planet will be ex­tinct in 15 years. VCG

May 24, 2017: Of­fi­cials from Bei­jing Cus­toms check smug­gled ivory. VCG

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