Ivory smuggling in China, the world’s biggest ivory market, fell by 80 per cent last year from previous peak years following a steady crackdown, the government claimed today. China will stop commercial processing and sales of ivory by the end of this year. Last year, it imposed a three-year ban on ivory imports in an escalated fight against illegal trading of wild animals and plants. The number of illegal wildlife trade cases has been on the decline since last year, Liu Dongsheng, deputy head of the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said yesterday. He said the ivory smuggling fell by 80 per cent but did not disclose details, sate-run Xinhua news agency quoted Liu as saying.
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Meanwhile, the numbers of critically endangered species in China, including giant pandas, crested ibis, Yangtze alligators and Tibetan antelopes have been increasing steadily, he said. China’s newly-revised law on wild animal protection took effect at the start of this year, imposing harsher punishment on overkilling and illegal utilisation of wild animals.
Last December, China said it would gradually stop the processing and sale of ivories for commercial purpose by the end of 2017. The decision came after China had imposed a three-year ban on ivory imports in March last year. The move will affect China’s 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with dozens to be closed by the end of March 2017, the agency quoted an official statement as saying.
Before that deadline, law enforcement agencies will continue to clamp down on illegalities associated with the elephants’ tusk, an official told the agency. China’s move, if implemented strictly, could be a game changer specially for the African elephant conservation as hundreds get killed every year by poachers to feed into the burgeoning markets in China and Hong Kong.
As a result, the number of Africa’s savannah elephants dropped to 3.5 lakh thousand in 2014, according to the conservation groups. While the international market in ivory has been closed since 1989, legal domestic markets have continued in many countries around the world.
A surge in the killing of elephants over the past seven years has seen populations across Africa shrink by a third, according to the recently published Great Elephant Census.