Is this the end of the ivory trade?
This weekend’s focus is China, home to some great conservation but also the epicentre of the ivory trade.
China is the world’s largest elephant-ivory market, however that is set to change this year following new legislation. In March this year, the Chinese Government announced the closure of 67 ivory facilities including carving factories and retailers, with the rest to be closed by the end of 2017. This is the beginning of a wind down in ivory production in China but could this mean the end of the ivory trade globally?
Shifting attitudes in China…
The Chinese ivory market is believed to be one of the largest in the world and a major driver of elephant poaching in Africa. During the ivory boom between 2007 and 2014, owning an ivory carving was a major status symbol for the emerging Chinese middle classes. This saw the price of ivory skyrocket to more than $2100 per kilogram.
The movement started to shift, however, in 2015 with a joint announcement from the Chinese and US Presidents to virtually ban their domestic ivory markets. The US subsequently implemented new regulations which banned the buying and selling of almost all ivory. Exceptions remain for items such as century-old antiques. China, however didn’t provide specifics until March this year.
Today, the price of ivory is dropping. While you might expect the ban to have made prices increase as it becomes even rarer, the ban actually had the reverse effect. Ivory traders are quickly trying to shift their product before the ban comes into effect during a time of economic slowdown, a crackdown on corruption and increased public awareness about the impact of the ivory trade on elephant conservation.
Conservation progress in Africa…
In March this year, a report was released which shows that the poaching levels of African elephants steadily increased between 2006 and 2011, however recent efforts have seen this figure halt and stabilize. Unfortunately, this level is still unacceptably high with poaching levels higher than the normal growth rate of elephant populations.
“African elephant populations continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from unacceptably high-levels of poaching for their ivory, especially in Central and West Africa where high levels of poaching are still evident. Encouraging signs are however visible in Eastern Africa, in places such as Tsavo in Kenya, where the overall poaching trends have declined to pre-2008 levels. This shows us all what is possible through a sustained and collective front-line effort coupled with strong political support”
What can you do?
Luckily there are lots of things you can do! There are lots of conservation projects around the world that you can either support through donations or the sharing of information. If you would like to get out there and take part in conservation projects then there are lots of opportunities available to you. The award-winning Desert Elephant Conservation Project in Namibia allows you to contribute to the conservation of the last two populations of African desert elephants.
Take part: Desert Elephant Conservation.
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