Every year, approximately 30,000 African elephants are killed due to poaching, habitat destruction, and human conflict, reports the WWF. As a result, the giant land mammal is expected to go extinct within 10 years. This is obviously a travesty — one that can be prevented. The Chinese government clearly agrees, for on December 31, 2017, it shut down all of its remaining domestic ivory trade. This means that one of the world’s largest consumers of ivory will no longer tolerate the sale of the substance.
As you might expect, the news has been lauded by conservation groups, wildlife activists, and animal lovers around the world. Said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of the WWF, in a statement: “Decades from now, we may point back to this as one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation. China has followed through on a great promise it made to the world, offering hope for the future of elephants.”
As IFLScience reports, an international ivory trade ban was enacted in 1990. This made it illegal for countries to trade ivory across their borders — not for ivory to be traded within the country’s bounds. As a result, demand for ivory, particularly in Asian countries, has remained high. In fact, ivory fetches prices as much as $1,500 per pound.
Now that the Chinese government has banned the sale of ivory within its borders, 34 legal processing workshops and 143 designated trading venues have been shut down. Fortunately, former ivory workers will not be displaced. The Chinese Ministry of Culture will help people utilize their skills in other workplaces. Xinhua news agency reports that master carvers, for instance, will be given an opportunity to work with museums. There, they can teach about the history of ivory carving and carry out restoration work.
Obviously, people will continue to trade ivory — in China and elsewhere in the world. News of the ban remains positive, nonetheless. This is because China has made it clear that it is turning its back on the trade. Soon, other countries may follow suit.
“This ban alone won’t end the poaching of elephants. It’s equally critical that China’s neighbors follow suit and shut down ivory markets across Asia. Only then can we ensure the open trade doesn’t simply shift to other countries and offer traffickers safe channels for newly-poached ivory,” said Hemley. “The fate of Africa’s elephants depends on global rejection of ivory trade, and governments hold the key to driving this.”
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