Today China took another important step to increase restrictions on ivory markets. Just a few days before a visit by President Xi Jinping to Britain, China's State Forestry Administration announced a one-year ban on the import of elephant ivory hunting trophies into China. The move follows a joint statement, issued two weeks ago by President Xi and President Obama, promising that both countries would enact "significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies." China's move also compliments a similar one-year ban it imposed on the import of carved (or "worked") ivory last February.
The import of hunting trophies, which is not generally regulated by international law as cross-border "commercial trade," can nonetheless act as source of ivory flowing illegally into commercial markets. A database maintained by the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species shows that wild elephant trophy imports to China are still relatively modest. In contrast, the United States records hundreds of imports a year, making it one of the leading importers of African elephant for hunting trophy purposes.
While temporary, China's move shows real leadership. It goes well beyond recent regulations proposed by the Obama Administration, which would continue to allow elephant trophy hunters to import two trophies into the United States each year.