China’s Announcement A Game Changer for Elephant Conservation
China has announced a ban on ivory trade and all processing activities by the end of 2017. This sparks hope among conservationist groups that it could stem the tide of mass killing of elephants.
The Chinese government announced the commitment to end the ivory trade on Friday.
China’s plan to end the ivory trade will be carried out over the course of the year. The plan includes mandatory closure of legal ivory processing factories and business to close by March 31.
Aside from that, the plan entails regulation of legal ivory collection, strengthening enforcement and education and “vigorously” pushing for a transformation of the ivory carving industry.
China has the biggest ivory market in the world. Estimates suggest 70% of the world’s trade ends up in the Asian country. Ivory products are seen as a status symbol by a majority of the Chinese people.
Hailed by WWF and WildAid
China’s commitment to end the ivory trade with a timetable attached to it has garnered approval from conservationist groups including World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and WildAid.
Carter Roberts, the president and CEO of WWF, said,”China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation. The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years, and the future is brighter for wild elephants.”
In addition, WildAid CEO Peter Knights said in a written statement, “China’s exit from the ivory trade is the greatest single step that could be taken to cut poaching for elephants.”
The Worrying Status of Africa’s Elephants
Scientists believe Africa may have held as many as 20 million elephants before the European colonization. But through the years, things were not good for Africa’s savannah elephants.
In the seven years between 2007 and 2014, the elephant population decreased by 30%, or 144,000 animals.
As of July, Africa’s savannah is now home to only 352,271 elephants, according to the Great Elephant Census.
The decreasing number of elephants is blamed on illegal poaching due to rising demand of ivory. Sadly, China is home to the world’s largest ivory market. In fact, the rising demand of ivory in China has led to the death of 100,000 elephants between 2011-2014.
The Great Elephant Census showed high rates of poaching in several southern African countries that were previously reported to be safe havens, like Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.