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For the first time in years, there is positive news to report in the fight to save Africa’s elephants from extinction. A new study by Save the Elephants revealed that the price of ivory in China has halved over the past 18 months, indicating that heightened social awareness on the Mainland combined with a series of new policy initiatives by the government are beginning to impact demand in the world’s largest ivory market.
The Chinese government appears to be following up on President Xi Jinping’s October 2015 announcement that Beijing will eventually phase out the country’s ivory trade. Although specific details about the proposed ban have not been revealed and the new law has yet to go into effect, the market for this once prized precious resource is changing.
Conservationists had hoped that President Xi would use the recent China-Africa summit in Johannesburg as a forum to announce the implementation of the ban, or at least provide some information on what the government plans to do.
That did not happen.
Instead, wildlife conservation and other environmental issues were largely sidelined as both Chinese and African leaders focused on infrastructure, security, and other economic development issues.
Andrea Crosta, co-founder and Executive Director of the Elephant Action League, said he wasn’t surprised or event disappointed that the ivory issue did not figure prominently at FOCAC. Rather, he’s been encouraged recently by trends in China where he sees a growing number of consumers shunning ivory products combined with a series of new legal measures by the government to crack down on illegal trading activity.
“China is doing more to protect elephants than Africa,” said Crosta, highlighting what is no doubt an extremely sensitive issue in the global conservation community where China has been understandably been vilified as enemy #1 of Africa’s embattled elephants.
Crosta joins Eric and Cobus to discuss why the ivory issue is far more complicated than simply shutting down demand in China. Reforming conservation laws, customs enforcement, and eliminating corruption in Africa are equally important in the fight to save these beautiful animals.