China bans its ivory trade

Entro la fine del 2017 in Cina sarà vietata la vendita e la trasformazione di avorio per contrastare il bracconaggio di elefanti.

It’s better late than never. China announced it will ban ivory trade by the end of 2017. The historic decision could put an end to the world’s largest ivory market and strike a major blow to elephant poaching in Africa – it is estimated that 50 to 70 per cent of all trafficked ivory ends up in China.

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Poverty, corruption, and an increasing demand in ivory are the main causes of elephants being poached for their tusks. Closing the major ivory market (China’s) will contribute to curbing poaching © Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

A ban on ivory trade and processing

China’s State Council announced that ivory processing and trade will stop by 31 December 2017, while numerous activities linked to ivory trade will be closed by the end of March. The Ministry of Culture will help people employed in the ivory industry, such as master carvers, find new jobs. Those who own ivory objects can auction them off after getting the government’s approval.

Stopping the slaughter of elephants

The Asian country’s move aims to save African elephants, which are ever more threatened by ivory trade. According to a recent report of the IUCN, elephant populations decreased by 20 per cent from 2006 to 2015, with 415,000 individual now surviving in the wild. Elephants killed for their tusks outnumber births, putting at risk the very survival of the species in Africa.

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Elephant poaching also represents an economic loss for the African continent. According to a study published in Nature journal, tourism in Africa loses 25 million dollars each year, which means 250 million dollars over 10 years © Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

The best conservation news of 2016

The announcement has been applauded by major environmental associations. “It’s the biggest and best conservation news of 2016,” said Alex Hofford, activist and photographer based in Hong Kong. According to data released by WWF, some 20,000 elephants are killed each year by poachers. The decision “shows determination to help save Africa’s elephants from extinction,” said Cheryl Lo of WWF Hong Kong. “A ban clearly requires strong enforcement and support from the government to be most effective. But together with China’s announcement, now that three of the world’s largest domestic ivory markets, that is China, Hong Kong and the U.S., are being phased out,” Lo said in a statement. “China is moving from being the main problem to the main solution,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants.

Ivory crush in Cina
China’s decision could help save elephants from extinction before it’s too late. According to experts, if mortality rates are not curbed, the species could become extinct by 2025 © AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Public opinion really matters

China’s decision follows years of increasing pressure put by wildlife campaigners at a national and international level. “Chin’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation,” said Carter Roberts, the president and chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund.

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