Amongst all the bad news from 2016, there seems to be a ray of light appearing. It just may well have turned out to be the Year of the Elephant after all.
In September 2015, China made a pledge to ban the trade of ivory—the driving force behind the poaching of elephants, estimated to be the cause of 20,000 African elephant deaths a year.
But thanks to education programmes and the work of conservationists, consumer demand for ivory has thankfully been declining significantly over the last couple of years, with prices falling to match.
Encouraged by the pledge last year, but fearful that the wheels of change would move too slowly while elephants were running out of time, Wild Aid launched a campaign at the start of 2016 to keep the pressure up.
#JoinTheHerd asked us all to get involved by helping to raise awareness to reduce the demand for ivory products.
“When the buying stops, the killing can too.” ~ Wild Aid
And now, despite the lack of a timeline behind their original pledge, the Chinese government has made good on its promise in really good time.
Yesterday, December 30th, China announced a total ban on domestic ivory sales by the end of 2017.
By March 31st—just three months from now—the sale and commercial processing of ivory must stop. And all ivory-trading businesses are to be phased out over the coming 12 months.
This is a great triumph for elephant conservationists as China is estimated to hold around 70 percent of the global market for ivory.
“China’s exit from the ivory trade is the greatest single step that could be taken to reduce poaching for elephants. We thank Preside Xi Jinping for his leadership and the State Forestry Administration for this timely plan. We will continue to support their efforts through education and persuading consumers not to buy ivory.” ~ Peter Knights, Wild Aid CEO
“Setting such an aggressive timeline to close—once and for all—the largest domestic ivory market in the world is globally significant. It’s a game changer and could be the pivotal turning point that brings elephants back from the brink of extinction.” ~ Elly Pepper, Natural Resources Defense Council
“WWF applauds China’s decision to ban its domestic ivory trade so swiftly, underlining the government’s determination and strong leadership to reduce demand for ivory and help save Africa’s elephants. Closing the world’s largest legal ivory market will deter people in China and beyond from buying ivory and make it harder for ivory traffickers to sell their illegal stocks.” ~ Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF, China
Of course, this is not yet a global ban. There are still markets for ivory in Japan and elsewhere, so the game isn’t up completely yet.
But for today, “game-changer” is great news.
It’s a good day to be an African elephant.
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Travis May