China ban on ivory sales aims to curb elephant poaching
HONG KONG - Reuters
A ban on ivory sales in China, the world's largest importer and end user of elephant tusks, takes effect on Dec. 31 with wildlife activists calling it a vital step to reducing the slaughter of the endangered animals.
Public awareness campaigns featuring celebrities have helped boost awareness of the bloody cost of ivory. Wildlife groups estimate 30,000 elephants are killed by poachers in Africa every year.
"It is the greatest single step toward reducing elephant poaching," said Peter Knights, chief executive of the group WildAid.
China has allowed the sale of pre-convention ivory, which refers to products such as carvings and crafts acquired before the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as long as it is accompanied by certificates.
Illegal ivory supplies have also been rife in unlicensed shops and online across China.
The Chinese ban has been hailed by activists but they warn that Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, remains a big obstacle to the eradication of elephant poaching.
Hong Kong is a prime transit and consumption hub for ivory with more than 90 percent of consumers from mainland China.
Since 2003, Hong Kong has intercepted about 40 tonnes of illegal ivory, only about 10 percent of what is believed to have been smuggled in, WildAid said in a paper to the city's legislature in May.
However, Kenya-based conservation group Save the Elephants said this year that neighboring Laos has expanded its retail market more rapidly than any other country.