Wildlife Trade: China Reports Drop in Smuggled Ivory, South Africa Debates Rhino Horn Law


International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

Date Published

The past month has seen a series of domestic efforts aimed at
addressing different aspects of wildlife trade, from the
implementation of measures to further regulate or curb ivory sales in
various countries and a debate in South Africa over domestic trade in
rhino horn.

Chinese officials reported late last month that smuggled ivory in the
country dropped 80 percent last year, according to the Xinhua news
agency. The Asian economy is the world’s largest consumer of ivory and
has committed to phasing out commercial processing and sales of ivory
by year’s end.

Countries under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreed last year on a
non-binding recommendation in favour of closing domestic ivory
markets, among other decisions. (See Bridges Weekly, 13 October 2016)

Earlier this month, CITES’ Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants
(MIKE) programme found that the increase in African elephant poaching
from 2006-2011 has “halted and stabilised,” but that more must be done
to ensure the survival of elephant populations on the continent.

In related news, Japan has lately taken steps to regulate further the
country’s ivory market, such as by requiring ivory traders to register
with the government and imposing harsher punishments on violators.
Separately, Singapore’s Minister of State for national Development Koh
Poh Koon announced earlier this month a ban of ivory sales as part of
the city-state’s elephant conservation efforts. Singapore is a key
point of transit for smuggled ivory with large quantities traveling
through it to reach other parts of the world.

The EU is also set to ban raw ivory exports from July onward in a bid
to tackle wildlife crime. The bloc is the world’s leader in raw and
carved ivory sales. Vendors are permitted to export ivory harvested
pre-1990, when international ivory trade was largely banned, which
some critics say can allow smugglers an opportunity to sell illegal
ivory disguised as legal.

South Africa issues draft law on domestic rhino horn trade

Meanwhile, South Africa is mulling draft legislation that could
legalise some domestic rhino horn trade, with the relevant permits,
and allow limited international exports for personal use. The country
is home to 80 percent of the world’s rhinos and reported 2883 cases of
poaching-related activities in 2016.

Some domestic breeders have argued that this law would drive down
rhino horn demand and decrease poaching, suggesting that some of the
money used currently to protect rhinos from poachers could instead
support other conservation efforts. Critics argue, however, that the
draft legislation could have the reverse effect and possibly provide a
“cover” for illegal exports and potentially increase demand.

ICTSD reporting: “China sees sharp decline in ivory smuggling in
2016,” CHINA DAILY, 27 February 2017; “China Bans Its ivory Trade,
Moving Against Elephant Poaching,” THE NEW YORK TIMES, 30 December
2016; “S’pore to ban sale of ivory here,” TODAY, 1 March 2017; “EU set
to ban raw ivory exports from July,” THE GUARDIAN, 22 February 2017; “
“South Africa Considers Legalizing Domestic Rhino Horn Trade,”
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, 13 March 2017; “Japan to tighten control over
domestic ivory trade,” KYODO NEWS, 28 February 2017.