China starts to shut down ivory factories ahead of ban

Feng Xue
By Feng Xue
March 31, 2017China News

Chinese authorities have closed down one-third of the country’s ivory factories and stores. This is a result of a joint commitment made by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last year, to close down the ivory markets in their countries.

Elephant numbers have decreased from 10 million around 100 years ago to just 500,000 today, as a result of the global demand for ivory. According to the WWF, poachers still kill between 20,000 and 30,000 elephants a year for their tusks. The impact of the ban on elephant populations could be large, because China accounts for 70 percent of the world ivory market and the US is also a large consumer of ivory.  

Some ivory sellers, like Ai Cunqing, are already moving on from the trade. Ai said: “From the point of view of the industry, because the whole world is banning this there might be some people who want to buy or sell, but I think that as a Chinese person we need to respect the law and I trust every Chinese person won’t continue to trade or cause harm.”

Yet others in the ivory industry have raised the point that the several thousand year old art of traditional ivory carving may be lost. Ivory carving was Xie Boyu’s career, and now she faces the prospect of being out of a job, as well as losing the art she dedicated her life to.

Xie said: “I’ve gone through so many hardships to now be able to complete a work by myself, it’s been really really hard, you need to study a lot of things to be able to complete one work and to be recognised by everyone. So if this is suddenly just abolished, I think it’s a loss for me personally, but it’s also a loss for our country’s several-thousand-year-old traditional culture.”

China will completely ban the sale of ivory by the end of the year. The decision has been celebrated by conservation groups.

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