China says it will end its ivory trade and shut down its ivory processing by the end of next year.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, said in a statement Friday, “To better protect elephants and better tackle the illegal trade ... China will gradually stop the processing and sale of ivory for commercial purposes,” by the end of 2017.
China has been under mounting international pressure to end its consumption of ivory products. In March, Beijing said it would widen a ban on imports of all ivory and ivory products acquired before 1975.
“This is a game changer for Africa’s elephants, “ said Aili Kang, the Asia director for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. “I am very proud of my country for showing this leadership that will help ensure that elephants have a fighting chance to beat extinction.”
Xinhua, the state media, said the shutdown would affect “34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues.”
Kang said the government will “conduct public education and outreach activities to raise ecological civilization awareness, to guide the public to refuse to buy any ivory and ivory products.”
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which took affect in 1975, banned the ivory trade in 1989.
China is the world’s largest market for elephant ivory. Ivory carving is an ancient art, and finely worked pieces, whether elaborate depictions of traditional Buddhist scenes or more simple seals and chopsticks, are considered highly collectible.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 African elephants are killed each year to feed the illegal ivory trade, which is fueled predominantly by demand in China. Elephant populations in Africa have declined by more than 20 percent during the past 10 years.