December 13, 2017
Consumers widely support the national ivory ban that will take effect at
the end of this year in China, but public awareness is still low, according
to a report released on Tuesday by two NGOs.
Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed by the NGOs said they would support the
More than half of past ivory buyers have stopped buying, according to the
report, which was produced by TRAFFIC and the World Wildlife Fund.
The State Forestry Administration, which manages the ivory trade, announced
in January that all commercial ivory processing and trading will be banned
at year’s end.
The ban has been widely hailed by the international community as a policy
that, if rigorously enforced, could help stop the poaching and reverse the
decline of the African wild elephant population.
“China has shown great leadership on this urgent issue within a region
plagued by illegal wildlife trade activity, which is exacerbated by legal
markets. It is a huge step forward and a clear commitment to securing a
future for Africa’s elephants,” said Margaret Kinnaird, WWF’s wildlife
“The next few months will be absolutely critical for the ban to be
effectively enforced and communicated. We remain confident that as the
doors to the largest legal ivory trade close, we start 2018 a step closer
to securing a world where demand for ivory is significantly reduced,” she
China had closed 12 processors and 55 retailers as of March this year.
There are 105 ivory producers and stores in the list, mostly in Beijing,
Shanghai, and Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces.
But among the 2,000 total survey respondents in 15 cities, only 19 percent
can recall the regulation on ivory trade on their own, while just 46
percent can recall the ban when prompted.
Moreover, the survey also found that 1 in 5 consumers of ivory are
persistent buyers, implying that they still intend to buy after the ban is
implemented. But 62 percent of the persistent consumers are willing to
reconsider future purchases, suggesting the potential to make them change
their mind through effective messaging.
Experts suggest that improving understanding and knowledge of the ivory
trade ban is essential and will provide a foundation for follow-up consumer
messaging aimed at changing attitudes and behavior.
“Raising awareness about the law and the consequences of violating it could
foster an environment that allows China to have a greater influence on
consumer behavior,” said Zhou Fei, head of the TRAFFIC China Programme and
the WWF China Wildlife Trade Programme.
In 1981, China signed the Convention on the International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In 1989, the sale of ivory was
prohibited worldwide after the African elephant population fell to 600,000
from 1.2 million in a decade.
The government banned all imports and exports of ivory tusks and related
products in 1991. Penalties, ranging from heavy fines to imprisonment, and
even capital punishment, are imposed for violators.
The report said that ivory purchases have dropped in the past three years
in cities where regulations may be stricter and where there is more public
awareness about the upcoming ivory trade ban?as in Beijing and Chengdu.
As NGOs have called for the closure of all legal domestic markets for
ivory?believed to contribute to poaching and illegal trade?the ivory
carving skill that was included in the First National List of Intangible
Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2006 may face extinction.
To protect ivory carving as an intangible cultural heritage, the forestry
administration is encouraging carvers to use their skills on other
materials, and has invited some to keep their craft alive via written,
audio and video records.