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Import ban targets legal ivory trade

By Su Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2015-10-16 07:52

China has taken steps to halt the legal ivory trade by imposing a one-year ban on imports of ivory acquired during trophy hunting in Africa.

The import ban announced on Thursday by the State Forestry Administration, China's wildlife watchdog, described elephant hunting as inhumane and extravagant.

"In recent years, many wealthy Chinese have spent big money to hunt an elephant and trot out the ivory as a trophy," a statement from the SFA said. "This kind of behavior also damages China's image around the world."

This ban marked another step to curb the legal ivory market in China, following an agreement between China and the United States earlier this month during President Xi Jinping's state visit to the US. The agreement includes a nearly complete ban on ivory imports and exports, significant restrictions on importing ivory obtained as hunting trophies, as well as measures to halve the domestic commercial ivory trade.

According to the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office of China, there are four sources of legal ivory in China: international legal ivory stockpile auctions; ivory acquired before 1975; ivory obtained through legal trophy hunting; and legal carved-ivory items obtained after 1975.

In February, the forestry administration imposed a one-year ban on the import of carved ivory items acquired after 1975. The ban affects ivory acquired after the implementation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The administration said it is evaluating the ban and would consider extending it.

Zhou Fei, head of the China program for TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization that monitors the global wildlife trade, said the Chinese government's attitude toward the ivory trade has shifted since February from allowing the trade of ivory to gradually cutting off and eventually banning such trade.

There has been a long debate about whether the ivory trade should be banned internationally.

One side argues that trophy hunting is an important tool for the sustainable management of parks and natural assets and that illegal trafficking of ivory can be curbed if there are legal supplies of ivory on the market.

Many conservationists say this approach hasn't worked. Zhou from TRAFFIC said there has been a sharp growth in the illegal trade of ivory since 2008.

A report in December by the nonprofit organization Save the Elephants and The Aspinall Foundation said huge demand for ivory in China has prompted a smuggling boom and led to a killing of elephants that the report described as unsustainable.

Additionally, it said that China's legal ivory trade has provided a smoke screen for illegal activity and that the system is "out of control".


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