China’s one-year ban on ivory imports is a big step forward – but more reform is needed

NEW YORK (February 26, 2015) — In an important recognition of the role Chinese citizens’ appetite for ivory has played in helping to fuel the slaughter of African elephants, Chinese officials today announced a one-year ban on African ivory carving imports, effective today. A brief statement on the State Forestry Administration said it would halt administrative approval for ivory imports until Feb. 26, 2016.

The move follows a series of orders by the Obama administration, which included a near-complete ban on commercial ivory imports into the United States. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest market for ivory after China.

Every 15 minutes, an African elephant is killed for its tusks. More than 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers between 2010 and 2012, leading some scientists to predict that African forest elephants could be extinct within the decade.

Following is a statement by Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Today’s announcement shows that Chinese officials understand the very real and devastating impact that the world’s appetite for ivory is having on elephants in Africa – namely that elephants are being slaughtered by the hundreds every week.

“China’s decision to ban ivory imports for a full year could be a real victory in helping to reduce poaching and wildlife trafficking depending on how the ban is enforced. But, China has ample stockpiles of ivory that it can still release into the legal market while the ban is in place. The domestic market those stockpiles create needs to be limited for real change to take place. 

"This is an important step in the right direction. And more still needs to be done to restrict the sale – and reduce demand for – elephant ivory in China, the United States, and around the world. Until we cut off people’s desire for ivory, elephants will continue to die.”

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