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Reassurance of Tight Control over Ivory Trade
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Forestry officials said yesterday that China has succeeded in bringing its domestic trade in ivory under control in line with international standards.

Zhao Xuemin, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), spoke about a series of measures implemented to prevent illegal elephant tusks and ivory products from being traded.

He said that the only ivory currently sold in China is from stocks, since no elephant tusks can legally be imported into the country.

"We have established a system of processing and selling legal products in designated factories and shops," Zhao said.

He made the remarks in Beijing while meeting a three-member delegation headed by John Macfarlane Seller, senior enforcement officer from the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The delegation is on a weeklong spot inspection of ivory trade control measures.

"China will continue to cooperate with international organizations and work with them in the field." Zhao said.

"As a member of CITES, we are serious about our duty to fight the illicit ivory trade," added Wang Wei, another SFA official.

Following the convention's requirements, since 1981 China has prohibited international trade in Asian elephant tusks.

The authorities started to control the amount of ivory imported from Africa in 1990, and banned all international ivory trade on the Chinese mainland in 1991.

Smuggling and selling of ivory has staged a comeback in a few areas after CITES allowed a conditional resumption of the trade in 1997 and gave the green light for a one-time ivory sale to Japan two years later.

Driven by huge profits, China was viewed by smugglers as a key market for illegal ivory.

Today, it has seen its tiny population of Asian elephants grow to between 150 and 250 following government protection, which was intensified in early 1990.

The only places that Asian elephants live in the wild in China are Xishuangbanna, Simao and Lincang, in the southern parts of Yunnan Province, in the southwest of the country.

To protect them, three natural reserves have been set up with a staff of 302 dedicated to preventing poaching.

(China Daily March 8, 2005)


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