A landmark decision was made last week by the US and China to ban the commercial trade of ivory within the countries’ boundaries. Poaching practices in Africa are out of control and endangering the lives of African elephants every day and there is still much to be done to address the problem. Both countries hope that this agreement will light a fire under Hong Kong for its current legal ivory trade, 90% of which is being smuggled into mainland China. Condemning wildlife poaching is a big step in the right direction.
President Obama and President Xi Jinping announced the decision to ban commercial ivory trading last week. Chinese citizens have been waiting for a move like this, as 95% of respondents to a survey said they want the government to impose a ban on the trade. In the last few years, awareness of the harmful practice has increased, which may have led to the decision to finally make a move. Not only has the public been invested in stopping elephant poaching, but there has been a 50-70% reduction in the consumption of shark fins in the country, as well.
A fact sheet released by the White House takes a clear stand against wildlife trafficking, detailing restrictions on importing ivory as hunting trophies and a commitment to encourage better cooperation from law enforcement. Public education and continued communication between the countries about how to tackle the ongoing issue is also a part of the overall plan.
WildAid CEO Peter Knights stated, “Today’s announcement is the greatest single step that could be taken to reduce poaching for elephants. Legal ivory trade has always been used as a cover to launder poached ivory, and when it was authorized by the previous administration in China in 2009, poaching escalated dramatically in Africa.” International bans on commercial ivory trading first went into effect in 1989, which somewhat halted the destruction by poachers, yet laundering and smuggling practices have been taking place in years since. Government leaders, however, are ready to resign “ivory trade to the trash can of history.”