KUALA LUMPUR: Experts based in Southeast Asia welcome China’s ban on ivory trade, while calling for greater regional cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking and illicit trade.
Oh Ei Sun, special adviser for international affairs of Malaysia’s Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, said China’s decision is of great significance in the sense that ivory has been widely used in China for sculptures and decorations in the past.
“The decision by the Chinese government is an important milestone for the preservation of endangered wildlife,” said Oh.
China’s State Forestry Administration announced on December 31, 2017 the closure of domestic ivory market in line with a pledge made by the Chinese government to strengthen its role in protection of the giant mammals.
“This is a monumental move by China, one that could change the course for elephants and help slow down the elephant poaching crisis,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for Southeast Asia of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network.
“But like any major decisions that have both national and global implications, all parts of the equation must come into place,” she said.
According to Krishnasamy, a major test would be to prevent the displacement of China’s ivory market to Southeast Asia. TRAFFIC’s market monitoring in the region has already shown a surge in selling ivory and other protected wildlife commodities in some countries, she said.
“Southeast Asian countries must strengthen law enforcement, policies and increase vigilance to ensure that China’s effort to address the illicit ivory trade is not reduced to moving the problem from one place to another.”
“Collaborative efforts between China and Southeast Asian nations will be crucial, particularly at key cross-border areas between Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar,” she added.
While China’s ban would curb demand, other countries need to strengthen their efforts, said Oh. “A single country could never complete the task of protecting endangered species,” he said.