China bans ivory sales to curb elephant poaching
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.
Ivory seized this year by Hong Kong Customs. But China’s ban will not apply in Hong Kong, a main transit point for tusks