On Friday 30th December, the Chinese Government made the historic announcement that it will close its ivory markets before the end of 2017. The move has rightly been hailed as a "game-changer" for elephants, as it should end much of the widespread and large-scale poaching that has been decimating populations.
According to the announcement, registered legal ivory processors and traders will be phased out by March 31st, and the country’s legal commercial ivory trade will be shut down completely by the end of the year. The Chinese authorities will also intensify their enforcement and education efforts to prevent the illegal processing, selling, and transporting of ivory, while the Ministry of Culture will help develop alternative livelihoods for those such as master carvers currently working in the ivory industry.
The announcement follows President Xi's joint pledge with President Obama in September 2015 to shut down their respective domestic ivory markets, and provides the all-important timeline for doing so.
Since 2013, Tusk's Royal Patron, The Duke of Cambridge, has been at the forefront of highlighting the poaching crisis and engaging directly with world leaders, including President Obama and President Xi, on the urgent need to halt the illegal wildlife trade.
Tusk's CEO, Charlie Mayhew, who accompanied the Duke on both his visits to China (above) in 2015 and Vietnam in November last year said, "The conservation world has been incredibly fortunate to have such a high profile advocate. There is little doubt that Prince William's interventions have created real momentum and encouraged the likes of China to act decisively. We all now look to the UK Government to swiftly follow suit and help stop this senseless slaughter of Africa' elephants.”
In September, the UK Government announced that it would implement a ban on sales of “modern day ivory”, ahead of the CITES conference and Tusk’s Time for Change event. Prince William told an international audience at the latter that “Now is the chance to send an unambiguous message to the world that it is no longer acceptable to buy and sell ivory”. The UK Government’s announcement was widely criticised for falling short of what’s required.
Tusk is working as part of a coalition of conservation NGOs and actively engaging with the UK Government to help them fulfil their manifesto commitment for a complete ban of the domestic ivory trade in the UK, on which it has launched its own consultation period this month. Ministers will no doubt feel even greater pressure to act in light of China's announcement.
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