Last year China declared that it would close down its domestic elephant ivory trade by the end of 2017. The country has so far stuck to its commitment by announcing the closure of over a third of its legal ivory factories and shops by the end of March 2017.
According to China’s State Forestry Administration, 12 ivory factories and 55 ivory shops were closed down by the end of March. The remaining 22 factories and 88 shops are due to be closed by the end of this year.
In response to the announcement Heather Sohl, WWF’s chief adviser on wildlife says “China has the world’s largest ivory market, so their announcement that the first stage of their ban is on track is a positive step for elephants. We hope that this promising progress continues and China implements its full ban by the end of this year.’’
In China, ivory is mainly bought because consumers associate it with luxury and status. The presence of a legal ivory trade has stimulated demand for ivory products and allowed illegal ivory to be laundered through the system. The illegal ivory trade is driving the current elephant poaching crisis, with on average one elephant killed for its tusks every 25 minutes in Africa.
WWF is advocating for the closure of domestic ivory markets worldwide that are driving the current poaching crisis, especially in Asian countries including Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam which also have large illegal ivory markets. Alongside this we’re aiming to reduce the demand for ivory in these countries by supporting consumer behaviour research and demand reduction initiatives.
We’re also calling for the closure of the UK’s domestic ivory trade, to ensure the UK plays no part in fuelling the global demand for ivory. WWF is urging the UK government to start its public consultation on the UK’s legal ivory trade as soon as possible. The UK must send a strong message that we refuse to play any part in the illegal ivory trade.