Elephant Lovers, Rejoice! China Vows to End the Ivory Trade in 2017

Elephant Lovers, Rejoice! China Vows to End the Ivory Trade in 2017

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t love elephants. If you’re an elephant lover, you’ll definitely cheer over this story. China has announced that it will shut down its ivory trade by the end of 2017 in an effort to halt the mass slaughter of elephants. YES!

The Chinese government plans to bring an end to the commercial trade by the end of March as it phases out the legal trade. [1]

Conservationists are cheering the move, as the increasingly wealthy consumer market fuels much of the elephant poaching across Africa. An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers. Their population has declined 62% over the last decade, and just 400,000 remain. As of 2016, there were more elephants being killed for ivory than being born. [2]

Aili Kang, the Asia director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, said:

“This is a game changer for Africa’s elephants.” [1]

Carter Roberts, the president and chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund, expressed a similar sentiment:

“China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation. With the United States also ending its domestic ivory trade earlier this year, 2 of the largest ivory markets have taken action that will reverberate around the world.” [3]

The U.S. near-total ban on the ivory trade went into effect on July 6, 2016. Under the ban, you can only sell an ivory trinket in another state if it’s more than 100 years old or is a small part of manufactured products, like an ivory-handled gun, or part of a musical instrument. In order to sell an ivory item overseas, it must be considered an antique. [4]

The ivory-carving industry is deeply ingrained in China’s cultural heritage, so the government says it will encourage carvers to pivot to restoring artifacts for museums instead of creating more useless ivory trinkets. The government also says it will do more to stop the illegal trade. [1]

Source: National Geographic

The ivory trade was legal in China prior to 1989, when a ban was placed on the trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which seeks to regulate the multi-billion-dollar trade in wild animals and plants.

The country also allows trade from a one-time, CITES-approved purchase by China and Japan of an ivory stockpile from several African countries in 2008.

The shut-down of the ivory trade will occur in phases. In the first phase, a designated group of legal ivory processing factories and businesses will be forced to close by March 31. The Ministry of Culture will step in to assist in the transition of legal ivory into use in museums and other cultural sites, as well as help carvers find related jobs. [3]

People will be allowed to keep any ivory products that they already own, or give them as a gifts. Owners can sell them at supervised auctions after receiving official approval.

Just how stringently the Chinese government will actually enforce the new rules remains to be seen. However, conservationists are fairly confident that the government will follow through on its promises.


[1] U.S. News & World Report

[2] World Elephant Day

[3] The New York Times

[4] National Geographic

National Geographic