China’s President Xi Jinping promised that the country would step up its efforts to protect wildlife during his first ever state visit to Zimbabwe this week.
The study found more than 33,000 endangered wildlife and wildlife parts and products for sale online in nearly 9,500 advertisements, with an estimated value of at least $10.7 million. It also found that 56% of those online advertisements for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts were found on Chinese websites.
The study also found that the most traded item in China was ivory, representing more than half of the worldwide ivory trade recorded in the survey. Investigators also identified 173 rhinoceros advertisements, 95 per cent of which were for sale on Chinese sites.
And just last year, a report from U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency accused Chinese officials of smuggling thousands of pounds of ivory on Xi’s presidential plane during a 2013 goodwill visit to Tanzania. According to that report, members of Xi’s entourage bought so much ivory it forced the market to double the price to $700 a kilo, providing increased incentive for ivory poaching.
However, China has been working to change its culture and image regarding endangered wildlife. In 2014, for the first time, China recognized animal welfare as part of a new wildlife protection law. And just last month, China announced a one-year ban on the import of African elephant ivory acquired as hunting trophies.
“China has earnestly fulfilled the international obligations and actively participated in international cooperation in wildlife protection,” Xi told state media during his visit to Zimbabwe.
Xi arrived in the Zimbabwean capital Harare on Tuesday, which marked the first state visit to the African country by a Chinese president since 1996.
While visiting the U.S. in September, Xi and Obama pledged to nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including ivory restrictions, and regulations aimed at stopping the commercial ivory trade.