China bans ivory sales to curb ele­phant poach­ing

The National - News - - NEWS -

A ban on ivory sales in China, the world’s largest im­porter of ele­phant tusks, be­gins to­day with wildlife ac­tivists say­ing it is cru­cial to re­duce the slaugh­ter of the en­dan­gered an­i­mals.

China has made a big push to erad­i­cate ivory sales and de­mand has fallen since 2014 be­cause of a crack­down on cor­rup­tion and slower eco­nomic growth.

Pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns fea­tur­ing celebri­ties have helped to boost aware­ness. Wildlife groups es­ti­mate that 30,000 ele­phants are killed by poach­ers in Africa ev­ery year.

“It is the great­est sin­gle step toward re­duc­ing ele­phant poach­ing,” said Pe­ter Knights, chief ex­ec­u­tive of WildAid.

China has al­lowed the sale of prod­ucts such as carv­ings and crafts ac­quired be­fore the 1975 Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites, if it is ac­com­pa­nied by cer­tifi­cates.

The trade in pre-con­ven­tion ivory has been legally thriv­ing in China and Hong Kong since 1975, and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists have long said that it had in­creased de­mand for all ivory.

The ban on all ivory sales has al­ready led to an 80 per cent de­cline in seizures of il­le­gal ivory en­ter­ing China and a 65 per cent de­cline in raw ivory prices from 2014, WildAid said.

Un­der the ban, China’s 172 ivory-carv­ing fac­to­ries and re­tail out­lets will also close. Some fac­to­ries and shops started to shut down in March.

Il­le­gal ivory sup­plies have also been rife in un­li­censed shops and on­line across China.

Some re­tail­ers have been try­ing to sell off stock and of­fer­ing heavy dis­counts be­fore the ban takes ef­fect.

Ac­tivists warn that Hong Kong re­mains a big ob­sta­cle to the erad­i­ca­tion of ele­phant poach­ing. China’s ban on sales does not ap­ply in the former British colony, which has the largest re­tail mar­ket for ivory and has traded it for more than 150 years.

Hong Kong is a prime tran­sit point for ivory, with more than 90 per cent of buy­ers from main­land China.

Since 2003, Hong Kong has in­ter­cepted about 40 tonnes of il­le­gal ivory, about 10 per cent of what is be­lieved to have been smug­gled in, WildAid said in May.

Hong Kong set a timetable for a ban on ivory trad­ing last year, with a phase-out pe­riod of five years. A fi­nal vote on the ban is ex­pected in the city’s leg­is­la­ture early next year.

Con­ser­va­tion­ist Zhou Fei said the Chi­nese ban could be a cat­a­lyst for the clo­sure of ivory mar­kets across Asia.

But Kenyan con­ser­va­tion group Save the Ele­phants said this year that Laos, China’s neigh­bour, had ex­panded its re­tail mar­ket more rapidly than any other coun­try.

Reuters

Ivory seized this year by Hong Kong Cus­toms. But China’s ban will not ap­ply in Hong Kong, a main tran­sit point for tusks

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