Simon Denyer, Washington Post
December 30, 2016
BEIJING China promised Friday to close down its domestic ivory trade
completely by the end of 2017, a decision greeted by environmentalists as
offering real hope to curb a poaching crisis that is wiping out tens of
thousands of elephants across Africa.
“China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation,” said
Carter Roberts, president and chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund in
a statement. “The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years,
and the future is brighter for wild elephants.”
The National Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental
advocacy group, said the news ?may be the biggest sign of hope for
elephants since the current poaching crisis began.
In a statement released by its governing State Council, China announced it
would cease part of ivory processing and sales by the end of March, and
cease both completely by Dec. 31, 2017.
It was a massive step for a country that had previously argued that ivory
carving was part of its national cultural heritage, and where intricately
carved ivory items had become both a status symbol and a popular gift to
grease the wheels of government and business.
But the government was moved to act not just by international pressure but
also by changing attitudes among ordinary Chinese people toward the ivory
trade. Celebrities such as former NBA basketball star Yao Ming have led
campaigns to “stop the buying” of ivory and simply to educate people that
elephants had to die for the ivory to be taken.
There was also a sense that China’s key role in the illicit ivory trade
estimated to be worth around $10 billion a year and run by international
criminal networks and African rebel groups was damaging its image in
After the market is closed down, the Chinese Ministry of Culture will help
ivory sector employees transition to other jobs, for example encouraging
“master carvers” to work in museums to help repair and maintain significant
ivory works of art, the statement said.
Peter Knights, chief executive of WildAid, a San Francisco-based group at
the forefront of efforts to change attitudes in China toward the ivory
trade, called it the “best possible news for Africa?s elephants” and
congratulated President Xi Jinping for his leadership on the issue.
Although poaching may have peaked a few years ago, around 20,000 African
elephants continue to be killed for their tusks every year, experts say,
largely to fuel demand for ivory from Asia, and particularly China.
Africa?s elephant population has dwindled from about 1.2 million 35 years
ago to between 400,000 and 500,000 now. Central African forest elephants
could be extinct within the next decade if current trends continue, while
Tanzania’s elephant population fell by 60 percent between 2009 and 2014,
census data showed.
But even if a ban is enforced in China, some experts warn that the trade
could shift across the border into neighboring Laos, Vietnam and Burma,
where large markets flourish selling endangered wildlife products to
Chinese consumers. There is also a danger of traders passing off elephant
ivory as legal mammoth ivory.
Nevertheless, a clear signal from the Chinese government is seen as going a
long way toward making ivory as unfashionable here as it is in the West.
China retains a small stock of legal ivory purchased in 2008, when
international trade in it was allowed. The state has been gradually
supplying that ivory to carving workshops and selling it domestically.
But this legal business, experts say, has provided cover for a vast
underground illegal trade that has fueled a poaching crisis around Africa.
The announcement follows a pledge by Xi and President Obama in September
2014 to end the domestic trade in ivory in their respective countries. Hong
Kong, another major hub for ivory smuggling, announced last week that it
would raise maximum penalties for wildlife crime to 10 years and phase out
its own trade in ivory by the end of 2021 although pressure may now mount
for it to move more quickly.
In January 2014, China signaled how official attitudes were changing by
staging a ceremony to crush six tons of tusks and carved ivory ornaments
that had been seized in anti-trafficking operations.
The United States has largely closed its own ivory market by banning trade
at the federal level and in several states, but experts said it still needs
to do more in terms of enforcement.
The last bastion of the trade is now Japan, said Knights of WildAid. He
urged global opponents of the trade to shift their attention there.
China to ban all sales and processing of ivory by end of 2017
Tom Grundy, Hong Kong Free Press
December 30, 2017
China has said it will ban the processing and sale of ivory and ivory
products by December 31, 2017. The country is the largest market for the
sale of legal and illegal ivory.
The US-based Natural Resources Defense Council said the move may be ?the
biggest sign of hope for elephants since the current poaching crisis began.?
A notice published by the General Office of the State Council on Friday
called for the strict management of the legal collection of ivory and ivory
products, so that they can be legally tagged and displayed in museums, as
well as transferred and inherited. Historical ivory relics, after being
professionally verified by institutions, may be auctioned under strict
monitoring after administrative approval.
As the ban comes into effect, the Chinese Ministry of Culture will help
move those in the ivory industry to other sectors. Famous ?master carvers?
will be encouraged to preserve their skills by working in museums to
maintain or repair antique pieces.
The notice added that law enforcement against the illegal sale, transport
and smuggling of ivory should be increased, and promotion of ?civilised?
environmental ideas should be carried out to lead the public to boycott
ivory, its products and illegal transactions.
Alex Hofford, Wildlife Campaigner at NGO WildAid told HKFP that the Chinese
authorities should be commended and applauded in their efforts ?which will
likely save many elephants in years to come.?
?China?s bold move will likely put significant pressure on the Hong Kong
government to speed up its own five year plan to kill off the ivory trade
here. We now call on China to make similar strenuous efforts to crack down
on its rhino horn trade,? he said.
China agreed to phase out the sale and domestic manufacture of ivory last
year as part of the 2016 U.S.-China Strategic and Economic (S&ED) Dialogue,
though no timetable was set. The chief of China?s State Forestry
Administration Zhao Shucong said at the time: ?We will strictly control
ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of
ivory and its products are eventually halted.?
Meanwhile, Hong Kong said earlier this month that the sale of ivory that
the local trade would be slowly phased out by 2021. Several ivory traders
complained on Friday that they would need more time to sell off existing
stocks, with some adding that they may seek legal action against the
Cheryl Lo, Senior Wildlife Crime Officer, at the Worldwide Fund for Nature
said on Friday: ?With China?s market closed, Hong Kong can become a
preferred market for traffickers to launder illegal ivory under cover of
the legal ivory trade. Hence WWF urges Hong Kong government and legislators
to immediately speed up the process to ban the ivory trade as soon as
China to ban domestic ivory trade by end of 2017
December 30, 2016
China will slap a total ban on the domestic ivory trade within a year, the
government announced on Friday, shutting the door to the world’s biggest
end-market for poached ivory.
The State Council said in a notice a complete ban would be enforced by Dec.
31, 2017. A first batch of factories and shops will need to close and hand
in their licenses by March 31, 2017.
Conservation groups applauded the ban, with WildAid’s wildlife campaigner
Alex Hofford calling it “the biggest and best conservation news of 2016”.
Environmentalists say poached ivory can be disguised as legal as long as
trade is allowed in licensed outlets on the high street and online.
Poaching is a major factor contributing to the rapid decline in the numbers
of African elephants, with about 20,000 slaughtered every year, according
to the WWF.
It says about 415,000 African elephants remain today, compared with the 3
to 5 million in the early 20th century. The animal is officially listed as
a vulnerable species.
People with ivory products previously obtained through legal means can
apply for certification and continue to display them in exhibitions and
museums, the government announcement said.
The auction of legally obtained ivory antiques, under “strict supervision”,
will also be allowed after obtaining authorization. The government will
also crack down on law enforcement and boost education, it added.
WWF Hong Kong’s Senior Wildlife Crime Officer Cheryl Lo said the bold
timeline “shows determination to help save Africa’s elephants from
“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.
The United States enacted a near-total ban on commercial trade in ivory
from African elephants in June.
Campaigners are urging the Hong Kong government to speed up its plan of
phasing out the local ivory trade by the end of 2021.
The former British colony, now Chinese-ruled but governed by different laws
under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, allows trade of
“pre-convention ivory”, or ivory products acquired before 1975.
The financial center also remains an important transit and consumption hub
for illegal ivory to China and the rest of Asia.
Chinese ivory traders have also tried to pre-empt the move, WildAid’s
Hofford said, with some carvers setting up shops in Laos and Myanmar and
other traders moving their products “offshore” to places such as Hong Kong.