National Geographic‘s Jani Actman reports on new hope from China re: the world trade in elephant ivory.
China will shut down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, according to an announcement made today by the Chinese government.
The announcement comes more than a year after China’s President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama pledged to enact “nearly complete bans” on the import and export of ivory, an agreement Wildlife Watch reporter Rachael Bale described as “the most significant step yet in efforts to shut down an industry that has fueled the illegal hunting of elephants.”
It also follows a commitment made in October by the international community to close domestic ivory markets.
“This is the best New Year’s present I’ve ever had,” says Sue Lieberman, vice president of international policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a nonprofit based in New York City that works to help save elephants and other wildlife. “China is the world’s largest market, both of small ivory items and high-end, expensive ones.”
The global ivory trade has been banned since 1989, but during recent years large-scale poaching has resumed, and elephant numbers have fallen as low as 415,000. Advocates believe that legal domestic ivory markets perpetuate an illegal trade because older, pre-ban ivory can’t easily be distinguished from poached ivory.