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在线翻译:
szdaily -> In depth
Beginning of the end: Ivory trade finished in China
    2018-January-9  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

THE doors to the ivory trade in China closed Dec. 31, 2017, and the world starts 2018 a step closer to a land free of the slaughter of endangered animals.

China honors its commitment to ending the commercial processing and sale of ivory by the end of 2017, the State Forestry Administration has said, adding it was China’s “new year gift to the elephant.”

The move affects 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with all of them closed, in the world’s once largest ivory market.

“The Chinese authorities will continue to clamp down on ivory collection as well as the processing, sale, transportation and smuggling of elephant tusks,” the administration said.

Poaching crisis

The poaching and smuggling of wild animals has formed a US$20 billion-worth trade chain, ranking fourth among illegal trades behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking, with a majority of the profits in the wild animal business being generated by smuggling ivory — an item so profitable that it is nicknamed “white gold.”

These huge profits make ivory a key source of funding for local armed groups, who in turn make ivory poaching difficult to stop.

Rising wealth, a growing appreciation of ivory as part of Chinese cultural heritage, its value as a status symbol and popular gift, and a sense that it was an inflation-proof investment created a boom in the industry, and a huge opportunity for global crime syndicates to exploit.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of African elephants has declined by 111,000 over the past 10 years. Africa has experienced a surge in ivory poaching — the worst since 1970s and 1980s — about a decade ago. The overall trends in the poaching of African elephants show a decline from the 2011 peak, but are still at levels all too high when viewed continent-wide.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that between 2008 and 2016, the number of elephants shrank by 66 percent in parts of Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic and Gabon.

The epidemic threatens Asian elephants as well, but on a smaller scale.

“The beast teeters on extinction,” said Charlie Mayhew, founder of an elephant charity Tusk.

China’s phasing out

In 2015, China joined global efforts to announce it would phase-out the ivory trade and ban imports of ivory and ivory products. The government announced in late 2016 that it would cease taking part in ivory processing and sales by March 31, 2017, and to cease all ivory processing and sales by Dec. 31, 2017.

The Chinese clampdown on the ivory trade has pushed the prices of ivory down, and the number of elephants killed in the last three years down by 65 percent, according to a report by Save the Elephants.

Save the Elephants researchers said the price of ivory dropped drastically from its peak of US$2,100 per kg in 2014 to US$730 per kg in February 2017.

“China’s ban is crucial for elephants,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.

Poaching for the trade of ivory is estimated to claim about 30,000 elephants around the world every year. But Knights said things were improving. Poaching in Kenya had dropped from 390 elephants killed in 2013 to only 46 last year, and by 55 percent in Tanzania in 2016 compared to 2015.

The trading ban will put ivory carving craftsman out of business. The Chinese Government shut down 67 ivory-carving workshops and retail outlets in March, and closed the remaining 105 by the end of 2017.

Communication gap between

China and the world

In a study on China’s ivory consumption, jointly made in 2017 by the WWF and TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, 81 percent of interviewees said they will not purchase any ivory goods, especially after the national ban.

The ivory issue went into the spotlight recently due to the story of a heroic young Chinese wildlife investigator that went viral on Chinese social media.

Huang Hongxiang, a part-time wildlife investigator and former journalist based in Nairobi, conducted undercover raids in Africa, Asia and Latin America and decided to show his face in “The Ivory Game,” an award-winning documentary which exposes the sinister underbelly of global ivory trafficking.

In an interview with National Geographic, Huang said that the decision to show his face was motivated by his desire to change the world’s perception of China.

“Today, China is part of many global wildlife trafficking challenges,” Huang said in the interview. “However, if the world sees all Chinese as bad people, it would fail to see many potential solutions.”

“I’ve seen a huge communication gap between China and the world,” he said, noting many Westerners and African people see all Chinese as ivory buyers even though the Chinese who buy ivory are only an extremely small population, and many Chinese have no idea that ivory comes from the brutal slaughter of elephants.

A previous polling by the IFAW found that 70 percent of Chinese did not realize that ivory came from dead elephants and many of them mistakenly believed that an ivory tusk is like a person’s tooth and can fall out naturally.

In fact, about 30 to 40 percent of a tusk is in the face of elephants and poachers cut the elephant’s face off to hack the tusks out after killing them.

A big win for conservation

The move, which effectively closes one of the world’s largest ivory markets, has been hailed by conservationists as a crucial step toward combating elephant poaching.

“Decades from now, we may point back to this as one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation. China has followed through on a great promise it made to the world, offering hope for the future of elephants,” Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of the WWF, said in a statement.

“This ban alone won’t end the poaching of elephants,” she added. “It’s equally critical that China’s neighbors follow suit and shut down ivory markets across Asia. Only then can we ensure the open trade doesn’t simply shift to other countries and offer traffickers safe channels for newly poached ivory.”

WildAid CEO Knights said this was “the greatest single step toward reducing elephant poaching.”

China’s ivory carving art form is one of the world’s intangible cultural heritages as defined by UNESCO and the country inherited the art form in a non-commercial way, but by ceasing trade in commercial ivory, China has taken responsibility in global governance, according to Li Ling, an executive project director of the WWF.

(SD-Agencies)

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