‘This is a turning point in saving elephants from extinction’: Prince William salutes China’s decision to shut down its ivory trade by the end of this year


Thomas Burrows and Hannah Al-othman, Daily Mail

Date Published

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Prince William has welcomed China’s decision to ban its ivory trade calling it a ‘turning point in the race to save elephants.’

China said it planned to shut down its ivory trade by the end of the year in a move designed to curb the mass slaughter of African elephants.

That will shut the door to the world’s biggest end-market for poached ivory.

The move has put added pressure on Britain to close the loopholes in its own ban on the trade.

The Duke of Cambridge praised the Chinese government for the ban, saying ‘the battle can be won’.

In a statement, he said: ‘China’s decision to ban its domestic ivory trade by the end of the year could be a turning point in the race to save elephants from extinction.

‘I congratulate the Chinese Government for following through on this important commitment. This battle can be won.

‘We need all countries to step up to the plate and do their part to end the illegal wildlife trade and save our iconic species before it is too late.’

Prince William had said in September he feared the African elephant would be extinct in the wild by the time Princess Charlotte turned 25.

In what was seen as a swipe at the British government, he criticised the ‘mixed messages’ being sent out about the ivory trade in Britain.

His comments came after environment secretary Andrea Leadsom said pre-1947 ivory antiques could continue to be traded, while ‘modern-day ivory sales’ were outlawed.

Last year’s Conservative Party manifesto had pledged a ‘total ban’ on ivory sales.

China had previously announced it planned to shut down the commercial trade, which conservationists described as significant because China’s vast, increasingly affluent consumer market drives much of the elephant poaching across Africa.

But it has now announced a ban on all ivory trade, which will take affect from March.

Aili Kang, the Asia director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, said: ‘This is a game changer for Africa’s elephants.

‘I am very proud of my country for showing this leadership that will help ensure that elephants have a fighting chance to beat extinction.’

Ivory carving is an ancient art in China, and the country has a stockpile of ivory purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification

China, which has supported an ivory-carving industry as part of its cultural heritage, said carvers will be encouraged to change their activities and work, for example, in the restoration of artifacts for museums.

Ivory carving is an ancient art in China and finely worked pieces, whether elaborate depictions of traditional Buddhist scenes or more simple seals and chopsticks, are considered highly collectible.

China had allowed trade in ivory acquired before a 1989 ban on the ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which seeks to regulate the multi-billion-dollar trade in wild animals and plants.

China also permitted trade from a one-time, CITES-approved purchase by China and Japan of an ivory stockpile from several African countries in 2008.

Conservation groups said China’s illegal trade had since flourished and criminal syndicates exploited the legal Chinese market as cover for their illicit business in tusks.

Conservationists applauded the total ban, with WildAid’s wildlife campaigner Alex Hofford calling it ‘the biggest and best conservation news of 2016’.

Poaching is a major factor contributing to the rapid decline in the numbers of African elephants, with about 20,000 slaughtered for their ivory every year, according to the WWF.  

The number of Africa’s savannah elephants dropped by about 30 per cent from 2007 to 2014, to 352,000, because of poaching, according to a study published this year. Forest elephants, which are more difficult to count, are also under severe threat.  

The United States – the world’s second-largest consumer of illegal ivory after China -announced in June a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory, with notable exemptions including antiques.