The Chinese government promised Friday that it would halt its domestic ivory trade completely by the end of 2017. Considering that China is by the far the world’s biggest consumer of ivory, environmental groups are calling the promise a “game changer” for elephants.
Carter Roberts, president of the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement:
“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.”
China plans on phasing out the ivory trade in March and completely ceasing trading by December 31.
And it couldn’t come soon enough. Africa’s elephant population has plummeted from around 1.2 million 35 years ago to between 400,000 and 500,000 now. And if current trends continue, the Central African forest elephant could be extinct within the next decade.
The move follows international condemnation and growing disaster for the trade at home. Former NBA star Yao Ming was one of many Chinese celebrities to lead campaigns that encourage consumers to stop buying ivory.
And in recent years, more and more people have become aware that elephants have to die for their ivory. Before, due to poor education, many falsely believed that the elephants lived.
The Chinese Ministry of Culture said they were prepared to help ivory sector employees find other jobs when the trade has ended.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, called the move “the biggest sign of hope for elephants since the current poaching crisis began.”
While the International Fund for Animal Welfare said they were “overwhelmed with joy.”
Aili Kang, Asia director at the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement:
“This is great news that will shut down the world’s largest market for elephant ivory. Ivory traffickers have just lost one of their biggest markets.”
Peter Knights, chief executive of WildAid, called the move the “best possible news for Africa’s elephants.”
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