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Activist hopes for total ivory ban in China

By SU ZHOU ( Updated: 2016-07-20 17:06

Concrete steps toward the elimination of the domestic commercial trade in ivory could be taken by the Chinese government in 2017, according to the head of a nongovernmental organization.

Zhou Fei, head of the China program at TRAFFIC, an NGO that monitors the global wildlife trade, made the comments during a public campaign in Beijing to stop the sale of carved ivory products.

"The official information is that China will publish a timetable by the end of the year to halt its domestic commercial trade in ivory," said Zhou.

"The patchwork of legal ivory trade licenses will expire by the end of 2016. So the easiest thing for Chinese government to do is to stop renewing these licenses for legal ivory traders in 2017, which will be a great step toward a total ban on the ivory trade in China."

Zhou believes halting the ivory trade in China will make a significant contribution to protecting the African elephant.

"In 1993, the Chinese government issued a ban on rhinoceros horn and tiger bone. That worked very well for the protection of tigers and rhinoceros. I think this ban will be as effective as that one," he said.

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in September, the two countries made a joint commitment to take "significant and timely steps" to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory. In June, the Obama administration announced a near-total ban on the interstate trading of ivory.

Zhou said another important issue was dealing with remaining legal ivory traders in China, who have complained about the coming ban and want the government to provide financial compensation.

There has long been debate on whether the international ivory trade should be subject to a total ban. In the past, the Chinese government has argued that a legal market helps meet domestic demand and provides financial support for African countries to protect African elephants. However, Zhou said this approach hasn’t worked because it creates confusion.

"Attempts to flood the market with ivory in the past have had disastrous results, actually increasing poaching rather than curbing it," said Zhou. "Putting more ivory into the legal supply chain creates a smoke screen for the illicit trade in ivory."

"Besides, China has a growing middle-class who would like to purchase ivory as a symbol of social status. The limited amount of ivory put into the legal market could not satisfy this demand," he added.

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