The Chinese government announced Friday that it will ban ivory trade by the end of 2017, doing so across the industry in phases that are planned for completion by this time next year.
The plan targets commercial processing and sales, according to a translated release, in a process that will be overseen by the State Forestry Administration. It also emphasizes a transformation of the industry that seeks to honor the skills and traditions of ivory-carving artisans, offering alternatives at museums and other institutions such as art restoration work, or with other materials to replace ivory.
Nonprofit social and cultural groups, and relevant trade associations can engage “in ivory carving technology research and heritage work,” but will no longer pursue commercial activities that depend on ivory. China plans careful management of existing legal collections, as well as strict law enforcement.
Public education strategies will be geared toward creating “a favorable environment for the protection of elephants and other wild animals and plants,” widening an understanding of environmental and ecosystem responsibility while raising awareness specifically about ivory products and their impact.
In recent years, the demand for ivory in China and the Far East – fueled by demographic and economic growth – has been the top driver to threaten African elephants killed for their tusks, according to Save the Elephants. Ivory is often sought after as an investment, and viewed as a status symbol in China.
At least 33,000 elephants are killed each year across Africa, the organization says, and an estimated 20 to 30 percent have been lost since 2009. Botswana, home to the largest number of elephants on earth, also said this year during the CITES conference in Johannesburg that it would no longer support the sale of ivory.
“Momentum to close down ivory markets gathered pace this year following the landmark joint declaration between President Obama and President Xi Jinping—announcing that both China and the U.S. would shutter the ivory trade within their nations,” the elephant group said in its 2016 report.
“In perhaps the greatest sign of progress in demand reduction, China joined the U.S. as a powerful voice in calling for united action to end domestic ivory markets on the international stage at key global policy meetings.”
Save the Elephants has worked with the Chinese to help implement the ban, but also warns of new emerging markets in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
To see the complete 2016 Elephant Crisis Fund year-end report, issued jointly with the Wildlife Conservation Network, check this link.
Image: Save the Elephants