By Xinhua writers Luan Xiang, Liu Wei BEIJING China (Xinhua)
-- A great step toward reducing elephant poaching will come into
effect on Sunday when it will become illegal to process or sell
ivory and its products in China, once the world’s largest
"It is a day to be inscribed into history," said Zhou Fei,
head of TRAFFIC China and the Wildlife Trade Programme of WWF
China, in an interview with Xinhua.
"A historic moment has finally arrived".
He said the move would help end the poaching of African
elephants and reverse the decline of wild African elephant
On Friday, an awareness campaign began, supported by the
State Forestry Administration (SFA), China Wildlife Conservation
Association (CWCA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and WildAid, among
Former NBA All-Star and national political advisor Yao
Ming, a long-time WildAid ambassador, features in a video and
"We can start 2018 hopeful that elephants will be safer now
that China has banned commercial ivory sales. Prices are down
and law enforcement efforts in many parts of Africa and Asia are
much improved," said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.
"The UN has unanimously called for domestic ivory sales bans,
and many other countries are responding with action.
"Japan alone remains unwilling to join the global community
on this issue," Knights said. Almost all countries have outlawed
sales of ivory.
The current partial ban has already led to an 80 percent
decline in seizures of ivory entering the country, as well as a
65 percent decline in raw ivory prices.
"China’s ban is crucial for elephants," Knights said.
"As the U.S. steps back from international environmental
commitments, Chinese leadership is essential."
On Feb. 26, 2015, China announced a one-year ban on imports
of ivory carvings, which has since been extended. On Dec. 31,
2016, China declared a complete stop to the domestic ivory trade
within a year.
By March 3 this year, 67 factories and shops had been closed.
The remaining 105 will close by Sunday.
Poaching is estimated to claim about 30,000 elephants each
But things are improving. In Kenya, 390 elephants were killed
The number had fallen to only 46 last year.
Dr. Fred Kwame Kumah, head of the WWF regional office for
Africa, said that the ban would be a step closer to a world
without any demand for ivory.
The next few months, he said, would be critical to how the
ban is enforced.
In 2012, Yao and WildAid produced the first documentary on
ivory poaching to air on state-broadcaster China Central
With WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation and Save the
Elephants, Yao Ming launched one of the largest ever public
awareness campaigns making use of more than 180 million U.S.
dollars in free media space from 2013-2016.
As a result, a 2017 WildAid survey showed a 70 percent
increase in knowledge that ivory comes from poached elephants
over five years.
In 2014, Yao proposed to the National People’s Congress that
ivory sales be banned.
Speaking with a Xinhua reporter, he said that buying ivory
was buying bullets, and asked the Chinese people to say no to
ivory and rhino horn.
That same year, China destroyed its first batch of seized
ivory, a sea change in the government attitude.
Many Chinese celebrities joined Yao in the "Ivory Free"
campaign, along with international icons, including Prince
William and David Beckham.
Dozens of messages by WildAid ambassadors were broadcast on
TV, outdoor video screens and in movie theaters.
Thousands of billboards went up in over 20 Chinese cities.
IUCN estimates that the population of African elephants
declined by 111,000 over the last decade.
While efforts in Eastern Africa have helped reduce poaching
to pre-2008 levels, unfortunately the illegal killing of Central
Africa’s forest elephants remains high.
This compounds the dramatic losses experienced in the region
over the past decade.
Between 2008 and 2016, elephant populations declined by 66
percent in parts of Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Central African
Republic and Gabon, according to a WWF survey.
Since 2012, China has made building an "ecological
civilization" a development priority, with the protection of its
fauna and flora, including wildlife, a crucial element,
according to Steve Blake, WildAid’s Beijing Office
From 2013 to 2016, China organized and led worldwide
cooperation against rhinoceros horn smuggling alongside
international law enforcement agencies, conservation groups and
authorities from other countries and regions.
The anti-smuggling bureau of China’s General Administration
of Customs last year filed 1,223 criminal cases involving
wildlife trafficking, arrested 2,196 suspects, and broke up more
than 200 criminal gangs in China and abroad, according to the
Animal Welfare Institute.
The administration organized and participated in numerous
national and international operations to combat wildlife crimes.
"This achievement has been hard-won. As a Chinese national
who works in an international organization, I feel proud," said
Zhou Fei, in a promotional video released by TRAFFIC on Chinese
"Our government chose to stand on the right side of history
at a critical moment."
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