More efforts are needed to stamp out the ivory trade

By Rabi Sankar Bosu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 15, 2018
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Illegal ivory and ivory products [Xinhua]

On the last day of 2017, China imposed a total ban on ivory trading which is a significant development in the global efforts to protect the world's elephant population. 

The world's leading conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (known as CITES), WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, to mention a few, whole-heartedly applauded China's ban on all trade in ivory and ivory products in its country. The WWF said that it was "delighted to see the doors of the world's largest ivory market close."

Undoubtedly, banning ivory trading illustrates China's determination to take a leadership role in the climate change and other important global issues as the U.S. steps back from international environmental commitments. Chinese leadership is essential to protect the elephants and endangered wildlife as a whole. It is great to see that China has offered hope for the future of elephants in Africa, following great promises it made several months ago to the world. Truly, the whole world is happy with China's "new year gift to the elephant."

As one of the world's biggest markets for ivory, China has long been criticized for allowing an insidious trade to thrive under the cover of an existing legal market. As such, the enforcement of the law by Chinese authorities is a game changer in curbing elephant poaching and illegal trade in wildlife. Dr. Fred Kwame Kumah, head of the WWF regional office for Africa, hailed the move as saying, "This is a significant step that should prove to be a huge boost to elephant protection efforts in Africa." Undoubtedly, banning ivory trading, as a responsible country in the world, China has set a good example of wildlife conservation to the world.

Elephants, the largest mammal species on land, are at risk of becoming extinct due to poaching. Poachers kill more than 27,000 African elephants every year for their tusks, putting the animal on the path toward eventual extinction. 

As China is the fourth largest country in the world, with the largest population, 14 international borders, the second largest economy, a giant in trading, it was not easy for China to close its domestic markets from the point of view of the industry. 

It is also important to note that the decision to ban the ivory trade is clearly in accordance with the "ecological advancement," a development priority made by Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2012. Since then, China has been on the front line in wildlife conservation.

In late 2015, Xi pledged alongside former U.S. President Barack Obama to address issues over wildlife conservation and illegal hunting and the smuggling of wildlife products. China has been engaged in a number of efforts to protect endangered animals in their natural habitat such as the giant panda, snub-nosed monkey, Tibetan antelope, red-crowned crane, and Manchurian tiger.

Before the ban, the Chinese government had taken a series of steps to end the ivory trade in the country. In February 2015, China announced a one-year ban on imports of ivory carvings. On December 30, 2016, China's State Council declared that there would be a complete ban to the domestic ivory trade at the end of 2017. A total of 172 ivory processing and 143 sales centers were shut down before the December 31 deadline. Doubtlessly, this indicated the Chinese government's intent to participate in global ecological governance.

It is heartening to see that most Chinese consumers also supported the decision made by the government. A recent WWF survey showed that nearly 90 percent of consumers supported the ban. With WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, Yao Ming, former NBA All-Star and national political advisor, launched public awareness campaigns on ivory poaching on China Central Television. Surely, awareness campaigns cast a greater influence on consumer behavior to reduce the demand for ivory products.

According to wildlife groups, China's ban has caused the price of ivory to fall as much as 65 percent since 2014. In 2016, the amount of smuggled ivory seized in China fell 80 percent from previous peak years, according to China's State Forestry Administration. Kenya saw the official number of elephant deaths drop from 390 in 2013 to 46 last year.

In today's world, the illegal ivory trade is not a China-Africa problem but an international problem as well. Ivory trade flourishes in Europe and the Far East. In August last year, the U.K. had been "named and shamed" as the global capital of the legal ivory trade. Still Japan remains as one of the world's largest domestic ivory markets, and is home to an active ivory manufacturing industry. 

On the other hand, in November last year, U.S. President Donald Trump reversed a Barack Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports into the United States from two African countries namely Zimbabwe and Zambia. The decision will surely allow the rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies.

In India, elephants are also not as lucky as in the last three years; whereby 85 elephants have been killed by nefarious poachers for their tusks. Although bloody killing or taking ivory is punishable with three years in prison in India, the recent raids suggest that there has been a rise in the illegal poaching of elephants in the country.

By terminating the ivory trade, China has set a leading example of wildlife conservation to the world to follow its lead in eradicating the ivory trade. But to stamp out the total ivory trade, more efforts are needed. All countries, both developed and undeveloped, should join hands and work uniformly to create a better future for all life on Earth. The Global Times rightly said, "The ivory ban in China is great, but it is not the end of our fight for elephants." 

Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, West Bengal, India

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

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