China Agrees to Ban Domestic Ivory Trade

Illustration for article titled China Agrees to Ban Domestic Ivory Trade

In an absolutely vital move towards preventing the near-imminent extinction of wild African elephants, a senior U.S. government official has confirmed that China plans to ban the commercial trade of ivory at some point within the next year.

The Washington Post reports the ban—which was loosely promised during President Xi’s Washington visit last month, but without a clear timeline—is being described by officials as a “huge deal”:

China is by far the biggest ivory market in the world, with a flourishing domestic ivory carving and trading industry that is supposed to use only old stockpiles but actually provides cover for the laundering of huge quantities of newly poached ivory.


The ban will include “extremely narrow” exceptions, which the Washington Post guesses will allow “perhaps for items such as musical instruments or certain antiques.”

The illegal ivory trade has been linked to terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, and blankets an enormously intelligent and deeply social species in a never-ending spiral of fear, loss, and debilitating trauma. There are between 400,000 and 500,000 African elephants alive today, down from 1.2 million 35 years ago; it has been predicted that they will become extinct within one to two decades if current trends continue.

Unlike the tepid yearlong ban of ivory imports China announced earlier this year, this move—if China actually follows through in good time—has the makings of some very good news.

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Image via Getty.

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Let’s hope they will follow through. My worry is that the poachers will still find a way. It is such a lucrative trade and they are incredibly sophisticated and brutal. I remember when I was in the Kruger park the Rangers told us that poachers would fly in with helicopters and machine guns. Unfortunately the corruption of African officials runs so deep as well that it makes it all possible. But let's remain cautiously optimistic China means business.