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Beyond the China Ivory Trade
The recent announcement by the central government of China to ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017 offers a glimmer of real optimism in the fight against elephant poaching. The decision is set to disrupt the global’s major marketplace for the product, as it will compel legal ivory processing industries to close down—thereby eliminating the cover under which the illicit ivory trade had flourished. Similarly, the ban will put in place strict mechanisms of ivory collection and disallow the display of ivory products in physical and virtual markets. With only about 415,000 elephants remaining in Africa, the step is crucial in ensuring the long-term survival of one of the continent’s most iconic species.
For a long time, notable entities the world over—Interpol, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Clinton Global Initiative, the European Union and the Duke of Cambridge, among others—had tried to tackle elephant poaching. And African governments have increasingly been cracking down on poachers and traffickers. But these were not enough to halt this crisis. It is China that has always held the key to unlocking—or should we say, locking up—this despicable crisis.
China is, after all, the world's largest ivory bazaar, with approximately 70% of the product ending up in the country. By setting a specific end date for its ivory trade, Beijing has sent a strong signal that ivory’s rightful place is on an elephant and not as a decorative item in someone’s home. The move is clear indication that Beijing is making good on its commitment to the African Union and African States during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit 2015, to cooperate in combatting poaching and illegal trade in wildlife.