NGOs call for total ban on ivory trade


Huang Shan,

Date Published

The Chinese government’s efforts to crack down on the illegal ivory trade in the domestic market have paid off, as demand and prices of ivory products in China have consistently decreased in the last two years, revealed an ongoing study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The preliminary research results from a feasibility report on banning commercial ivory trade in China were announced by Xu Yang, officer of wildlife trade for the WWF, in Beijing on Aug. 12. The research, co-launched by the WWF and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC), aims to provide technical references for the Chinese government in policy-making.

The organizations praised China’s leading role in saving wild African elephants, as the government promised in June to release a timetable for banning its domestic ivory trade by the end of the year.

In the first half of the last century, there were three to five million elephants living on the African continent. However, the number has diminished to less than 500,000. It’s urgent to take effective measures to prevent the functional extinction of the species..

During his visit to the United States last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a joint commitment with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama to halt the import and export and the domestic commercial trade of ivory.

“If there is a single most effective action to curb the poaching of African elephants, it is a ban by China and the U.S. on ivory trade,” said Zhou Fei, head of TRAFFIC’s China office, adding that as the world’s two most powerfulcountries, China and the U.S. must shoulder the responsibility to save the endangered species.

China levied a one-year ban on imports of African ivory acquired as hunting trophies on Oct. 15 last year. It came after another one-year ban made on Feb. 26 last year, which prohibited imports of African ivory carvings acquired after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In March, the State Forestry Administration announced to expand the two one-year bans to the end of 2019.

However, the WWF and TRAFFIC call for a further step to “illegalize” all the ivory products in the Chinese market and implement a permanent ban so as to restrain speculation in the ivory trade.

The research report also made suggestions on supporting measures to implement the ban on the ivory trade, such as improving relevant laws and regulations to enhance law enforcement, raising public awareness of wildlife protection and encouraging the inheritance of ivory carving skills in an uncommercial way.

Ivory carving is listed as China’s intangible cultural heritage. “We suggest those artifacts be kept in museums instead of being traded on the market,” said Xu, who also warned that the social media has become a platform for illicit ivory trading.

Aug. 12 is World Elephant Day. It was first celebrated in 2012 to spread awareness, share knowledge, and provide solutions for better care of both captive and wild elephants.