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China has pledged to shut down all trade in ivory by the end of 2017, a move that conservationists are hailing as a “game changer” for elephant conservation. The decision comes on the heels of years of mounting global pressure to stem the mass killings and threatened extinction of African elephants. (Poaching puts Asian elephants at risk, as well, albeit to a lesser extent.) “China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation. The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years, and the future is brighter for wild elephants,” Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement. “With the U.S. also ending its domestic ivory trade earlier this year, two of the largest ivory markets have taken action that will reverberate around the world.”

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GAME CHANGER

Poachers kill between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants each year for their tusks, according to the animal-rights group. In 1980, there were 1.2 million African elephants. Today, fewer than 420,000 remain.

China said it will end all commercial processing and sale of ivory by March 31, then phase out all registered traders by December.


Poachers kill between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants each year for their tusks.


In addition, the Chinese Ministry of Culture will help ivory-sector employees, including famous “master carvers,” transition to other roles, such as the repair and maintenance of ivory works of significant cultural value.

Ivory will be allowed to be displayed non-commercially in museums and art galleries. It can also be inherited.

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Elly Pepper from the Natural Resources Defense Council said that it’s crucial for other countries with domestic ivory markets, such as the United Kingdom, to follow China’s lead and shut down.

“As recognized in resolutions agreed to by many countries and leading conservation experts at the IUCN World Conservation Congress and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), domestic ivory bans are critical to stopping the poaching of elephants,” she wrote in a blog post. “And while China is one piece of the puzzle, all countries must work together to end the global ivory trade if we hope to bring elephants back from the brink.”