China’s ivory ban: good news with some reservations
The ban was announced on the website of China’s State Administration of Forestry on 26th of February. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said authorities would evaluate the temporary ban’s impact on the killing of elephants in Africa, which last year reached “critically high levels”, according to the United Nations. Chinese authorities hope the ban would be a concrete step to reduce the demand for African tusks and to protect wild elephants.
Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the temporary ban as being a first step forward, but regrets to observe that this falls short of addressing a root issue in China — its large stockpile of legal ivory that provides for a legitimate domestic market.
In addition, the ban does not apply to raw tusks, while most of the ivory legally allowed to be imported into China are raw tusks; carved ivory represents only a tiny portion of imports. China is also the world’s largest importer of smuggled tusks.
In three years 100,000 African elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year.
In recent decades as the wealth of middle-class Chinese has grown, so too has their taste for expensive and exotic animal products such as tiger bones, rhinoceros horns and tusks. A signatory of CITES, China is nevertheless the world’s largest consumer of smuggled tusks. Since 1989 countries with elephant populations have been allowed to sell stocks of ivory from animals that died from natural causes. During the last such sale, in 2008, China bought 68 tonnes.
For more information on Eurogroup’s position, contact Ilaria di Silvestre, Wildlife Project Leader.