Poaching elephants for their ivory tusks is one of the biggest threats to these majestic creatures who live in the wild, however China has made a major step forward in their preservation by banning ivory trade in the country by the end of 2017.
This new law is incredibly important for two reasons.
Firstly, China is one of the biggest purveyors of ivory in the world.
It is estimated that the country buys and sells 70% of the world’s ivory.
Additionally, the news is significant for the population of African elephants who are currently on the cusp of extinction.
Conservationist organizations are hopeful that this historic move will help elephant populations begin to rise again.
Currently, there are 415,000 elephants living in the wild with over 110,000 lost to poaching in the last decade.
At this continued rate, elephants will be extinct in the next forty years without hard and fast action.
Conservationists are also urging other countries to follow suit in banning the sale of ivory to help elephant populations begin to rise again.
Organizations are also attempting to get the UK and Hong Kong in on the act, as the new laws don’t include loopholes through the country that could still allow ivory trade.
China’s State Council stated that the ivory will begin to be phased out on March 31 of this year.
Currently, African ivory is a very expensive status symbol, so the now relative rarity of the ivory will likely push the price further up within China itself.
One UK professor remains cautiously optimistic about the ban.
Stuart Bearhop, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at University of Exeter, feels a black market will still continue despite the ban:
“I think ivory will never become worthless, there will doubtless still be a large black market for it within China. For example, while some east African countries have been very vocal about clamping down on poaching, the illegal trade flourishes in other countries in Southeast Asia where ivory is banned.
“The likelihood is that demand for ivory will go down and this should reduce the extent of elephant poaching. But these are slow reproducing and long-lived animals, and so it will be a number of years before we see any signs of recovery.”