China’s About to Take a Huge Step to Protect Elephants

As elephants continue to disappear at alarming rates, China has raised hope for these iconic giants with an announcement that it will take action to end all ivory manufacturing and sales.

It’s estimated that 96 elephants are killed each day by poachers for nothing more than their tusks. The numbers alone are astounding, but those don’t even begin to cover the heartbreaking losses these intelligent and social animals continue to suffer when their family members die, or the impact their disappearance will have on ecosystems.

While international efforts are underway to tackle the problem, some in the conservation community continue to argue that the only chance elephants have now is the closure of all markets for ivory.

With the exception of two government sales held in 1999 and 2008, the international trade in ivory has been banned since 1989. Unfortunately, the demand for ivory has led to an increase in poaching and conservationists believe the legal market for pre-ban ivory is helping to provide a cover for illegal products.

In a paper published last summer in the journal Conservation Biology, Elizabeth Bennett, the Vice President for Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, argued that the financial incentives of breaking the law outweigh the consequences, and the fact that it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between legal and illegal ivory only compounds the problem. She also argued that the biggest problem with legalized trade is that corruption is undermining efforts to effectively regulate sales.

Earlier this spring China announced that it would impose a one-year ban on imports of ivory carvings and while that move showed promise, some argued at the time that it wouldn’t be enough because it didn’t apply to the legal domestic market and that the country still needed to do more.

Now with a surprising, and very significant announcement, there’s hope that the world’s largest market for ivory could close its doors.

Speaking at a ceremonial event in Beijing that destroyed a 1.5 ton stockpile of illegal ivory, The Guardian reported that Zhao Shucong, head of China’s State Forestry Administration, said, “We will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.”

Efforts to end the trade will also reportedly include tougher policing of wildlife trafficking both online and off, renewed public campaigns to raise awareness and kill the demand and strengthening international partnerships to stop the slaughter.

Conservationists are applauding the announcement as a hugely important step to protect elephants and are now urging China to create a concrete plan and set a timetable for closing carving factories ending  ivory sales.

“Shutting down commercial ivory markets worldwide is the single biggest step that governments can take to end the elephant poaching crisis. As the world’s largest ivory market, the importance of China’s announcement to phase out all commercial ivory sales cannot be underestimated. Now it’s our job to closely monitor the details of China’s plans, including its timeline and any intermediate steps the Chinese government will be taking,”said Andrew Wetzler, Land and Wildlife Director for the National Resources Defense Council.

For more info on how to support efforts to save elephants, visit 96 Elephants and iworry.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

139 comments

Emma Z
Past Member about a year ago

thank you

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Sue H
Sue Habout a year ago

Actions speak louder than words....

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Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thanks for posting.

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Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago

Noted

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Lesa D
Past Member about a year ago

it is my fervent hope that China & *ALL* countries will protect elephants & *ALL* animals great & small...

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Lesa D
Past Member about a year ago

#74286 petition signed...

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Lesa D
Past Member about a year ago

thank you Alicia...

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

Ivory is not part of Chinese "culture". First of all Communist China does not have a trace of "culture". Like all of rotten Asia, the only "culture" they have is personal degraded immoral greed. Second of all the elephants they are breaking the law and smuggling are in AFRICA, not China, so it can't be their "culture" even if they had one.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

"One year ban" and "“We will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.”

All sounds like international BS to me. You are either going to ban or not. Eventually halt... How long do the elephants have to hold out before they get off their butts and do something. I would not count on China to do squat to ban ivory.

However, I do believe this is the case in many more countries also.

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