29 March 2017 – In a major step toward implementing its pledge to ban the ivory trade, China will close 67 carving factories and retail shops across the country on Friday, WildAid has learned. The first round of closures impacts about a third of all official shops and factories, according to documents released by China’s State Forestry Administration.
Late last year, China announced plans to stop all domestic ivory sales by the end of 2017. The country is currently the world’s largest market for elephant ivory products. Although international trade is prohibited, up to 30,000 elephants are killed illegally each year for their tusks.
“These closures prove that China means business in closing down the ivory trade and helping the African elephant,” said Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid. “The price of ivory has dropped by two-thirds from previous highs, so it is now a very bad investment. We expect further drops as the full closure approaches at the end of the year.”
A report released today by Save the Elephants found that the wholesale price of ivory tusks in China had fallen to $730 per kilogram, down from $2,100 in 2014. According to the investigation, some retail outlets have already closed due to slow sales. “Public awareness campaigns have exposed many potential buyers to the impact that buying ivory has on Africa’s elephants,” the organization said in its press release.
There are currently 34 official ivory carving factories located across China. Twelve of them are scheduled to close this week, ten of which also conduct retail sales. Additionally, 45 of the 130 retail shops licensed by the government to sell ivory will end sales by Friday.
“The positive effects of the ban are already happening,” Knights said. “Seizures of ivory coming into China were down by 80% in 2016, and poaching in Kenya was last reported as 67 elephants, down from 390 three years before.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong and the UK still have not passed their proposed ivory bans, and Japan’s market remains wide open. WildAid urges lawmakers to support the government’s plan to shut down the Hong Kong ivory market, and asks Japan to join the global community in stopping the trade.
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