Today, we celebrate another big win for elephant conservation with China’s game-changing decision to end domestic ivory trade by 2017. The new regulations come as part of the government’s efforts to reduce demand for elephant ivory and help end the global elephant poaching crisis.
“China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF. “The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years, and the future is brighter for wild elephants. With the US also ending its domestic ivory trade earlier this year, two of the largest ivory markets have taken action that will reverberate around the world.”
Last September, President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping made a joint commitment to impose near-total elephant ivory bans in their countries. The US finalized new regulations in June that will help shut down commercial elephant ivory trade within its borders and stop wildlife crime overseas.
China and the US are two of the world’s biggest consumer markets for wildlife products. Their historic decision to phase out commercial elephant ivory trade in both countries is a monumental step that few would have predicted a year ago.
The decision helped shape discussions at the world’s most important wildlife trade conference which took place in South Africa this past September. Representatives from 182 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) gathered to discuss critical trade issues impacting species under threat, including a proposal to end all commercial domestic elephant ivory markets. In 2013, China and 18 other Asian and African countries were asked to develop and put into effect National Ivory Action Plans to address the poaching crisis.
Poachers kill between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants each year for their tusks, primarily to satisfy the demand for ivory products in Asia, where China is a key part of this trade. The epidemic threatens Asian elephants as well, but on a smaller scale.
Now that two of the world’s largest domestic ivory markets—the US and China—have shown great leadership in taking significant stands towards elephant conservation, it is WWF’s hope that other consumer markets follow suit.
A recently published study by WWF and TRAFFIC says that an ivory trade ban in China is feasible and could help reduce current threats to African elephants. Creating that ban could set an example for and influence other countries to tackle the illegal ivory trade.
We’d like to see China continue its efforts to reduce demand for ivory; raise public awareness about wildlife crime; and work with other governments, conservation organizations, the private sector and local communities to help end the illegal ivory trade—and give elephants a future free from poaching.