Yesterday, China extended the ban on the imports of African elephant ivory carvings acquired after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took effect in 1975 and African elephant ivory acquired as hunting trophies to December 31, 2019. In the meantime, a new ban was issued that China will forbid imports of all ivory and its products acquired before CITES.

Image via IFAW

Image via IFAW

“IFAW welcomes the expanded import ban of pre-convention ivory and the extension of the two time-bound ivory import bans. They are important steps to demonstrate China’s determination to join the world in condemning ivory trade.” said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Dr. Xianlin Meng, the executive deputy director of China’s CITES Management Authority, said: “By extending the two bans issued last year, we hope to consolidate the bans’ impact on curbing poaching and trafficking of African elephants. The reason we levy the ban on pre-CITES ivory and its products is that we want various measures banning ivory imports to be complementary and comprehensive. These bans show that Chinese government are taking a firmer stand and implementing more vigorous actions in protecting African elephants.

Ivory trade is pushing endangered elephants towards extinction. According to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), in recent years, the volume from large-scale ivory seizures has been setting new records. Every year, 25,000-30,000 African Elephants are poached to supply the ivory trade. Research shows that for slow-growing, long-living species like the elephant, when mortality rate reaches 6 percent the population risks crashing. However in many regions of Africa elephant populations are declining at a rate of 11 to 12 percent because of ivory trade.

To address the crisis, since January 2014 China has twice publicly destroyed confiscated ivory. Hong Kong also promised to destroy their entire 30 tons confiscated ivory stockpile in two years. On September 25 last year, China and the United States announced a historic agreement to enact what were described “nearly complete bans on ivory imports and exports, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies” in their respective countries. Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Barack Obama of the United States promised to “take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.”

Research shows that domestic ivory markets provides cover for criminals to launder illegal ivory from poached elephants, puts the burden of proof on enforcement officers, and confuse consumers, many of whom take market availability of ivory for legality of the trade.

A survey conducted by research agency Rapid Asia showed that the most convincing reason for Chinese consumers to stop ivory consumption was “making ivory trade illegal in all circumstances” (60 percent).

“Continuing with the ivory import bans aside, to truly save elephants from poaching, the immediate implementation of President Xi’s pledge to ban domestic ivory trade is urgently needed,” said Gabriel, “Only by having clear and unequivocal laws banning ivory trade as soon as possible, combined with vigorous enforcement and meaningful penalties for violators can attach stigma to ivory trade, and ultimately reduce demand,” said Gabriel.

(This article originally appeared on IFAW. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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