From today, December 31, 2017, China’s legal, government-sanctioned ivory trade will cease to a halt.
A landmark announcement made in 2015 between President Xi Jinping and then US President Barack Obama means that licensed ivory carving factories and retailers will from now on be ‘shuttered’.
The move has been made to curb poaching the endangered species and ensure them a better future.
National Geographic reports China and the US have both agreed ‘near-complete’ bans on the controversial product taken from the tusks of elephants, which will outlaw the buying and selling of ‘all but a limited number of antiques’ and ‘a few other items’.
The US ban came into effect in June 2016 while China’s comes into play today, Sunday December 31, 2017.
China is widely believed to be the largest consumer of both legal and illegal ivory, and plays a large part in the yearly slaughter of 30,000 African elephants by poachers. Ivory is used in intricate carvings, trinkets, chopsticks among other ornamental items.
Gao Yufang, a Ph.D. student in conservation biology and cultural anthropology at Yale University and a National Geographic Explorer, told National Geographic:
The Chinese government’s ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture.
This is a significant step forward.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty to prevent animal trafficking and species extinction, celebrated news of the law taking effect on Twitter.
#NowOfficial It's 31 December in China. The historic #IvoryBan in China has now entered into force! All commercial sales & processing of #elephant #ivory are now illegal in China.#EndPoaching #EndWildlifeTrafficking #CITES #CoP17 pic.twitter.com/OU6zDihDBj
— CITES (@CITES) December 30, 2017
#NowOfficial It’s 31 December in China. The historic #IvoryBan in China has now entered into force! All commercial sales & processing of #elephant #ivory are now illegal in China.#EndPoaching #EndWildlifeTrafficking #CITES #CoP17
National Geographic reported in January 2016 that China had a legal ivory stockpile of about 40 metric tons, made up of ‘drawdowns by government-licensed businesses’ and with a life span of less than eight years. Illegal stocks are believed to be 25 times greater.
Since the announcement of the Chinese ban last year, described by WildAid CEO Peter Knight as ‘the greatest single step toward reducing elephant poaching’ there has reportedly been an 80 per cent decline in seizures of ivory entering the country.
In spite of the effects of the ban kicking in, WildAid say according to the State Forestry Administration customs officials in Guangxi, China seized 165 tusks from an individual’s rural home in November 2017. The 360kg ivory haul had an estimated illicit value of $4.4 million.
However, Ginette Hemley, a senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund and board member of wildlife trade monitoring organisation TRAFFIC, has said in a press release: ‘By closing its ivory markets, China is showing its commitment to end its role in the poaching epidemic plaguing Africa’s elephants.’
‘It is critical that efforts to enact the ivory trade ban are accompanied by efforts to change consumer behavior in order to reduce demand.’
Let’s hope our enormous friends really do have a Happy New Year.
Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.