China’s elephant ivory trade ban has had significant positive effects, with more purchasers choosing not to buy ivory products, according to a report released on Sept 27.
The report, jointly released by the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC, a nongovernmental organization working on sustainable development and conservation of biodiversity, is based on research conducted in collaboration with GlobeScan, an independent consultancy.
It shows that public support for the ivory ban is high, with nine out of 10 respondents expressing support.
All pre-ban legal ivory shops visited by TRAFFIC have stopped selling ivory.
Moreover, TRAFFIC visited 157 markets in 23 cities and found 2,812 ivory products in 345 stores, a decline of 30 percent from last year.
It also found that the average number of new ivory advertisements on websites and social media platforms dropped by 26.6 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively.
In early 2015, China announced a one-year ban on imports of ivory carvings, which has since been extended. A year later, it declared a halt to the domestic ivory trade within a year. The ban on ivory trading took effect at the end of 2017.
Poaching is estimated to claim about 30,000 elephants annually, and China’s ban has been widely hailed by the international community as a policy that could help stop the practice and reverse the decline of the African wild elephant population.
Although the ban has received positive feedback, experts believe that further action is needed to influence more people and raise public awareness of wild elephant protection by ceasing purchases of ivory and related products.
Apart from China’s border areas with Vietnam, such as Dongxing and Pingxiang in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the report said more cities have become ivory trafficking hot spots, including Chengdu, Sichuan province; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; and Chongqing municipality.
“Rapid economic growth in those inland cities boosted people’s consumption power, but more public education on wild species protection is needed,” said Xu Ling, head of the wildlife trade program of the WWF’s China office.
“The report may help the Chinese government strengthen market supervision, law enforcement and public education for effective implementation to ensure the long-term success of the ivory trade ban,” she said.
With ivory auctions now being the only legitimate commercial trade markets for ivory products, the research also found that antique ivory sold at auction might provide loopholes for laundering illegal ivory.
By visiting 17 pre-auction exhibitions in several cities, researchers found some exhibitors didn’t obtain administrative approval, resulting in 219 lots of elephant ivory products being seized by law enforcement officers.
“Persistent demand and a lack of awareness by consumers in some parts of the country and weak spots in regulation and enforcement mean that we need to redouble our efforts in strengthening these areas,” said Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader.