U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have announced a “nearly complete” ban on commercial ivory trading.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, both countries have agreed to “enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.”
The move has been met with excitement from conservationists like WildAid CEO Peter Knights who said, “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.”
Every year, approximately 35,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory. If this trend continues, African elephants could be extinct in the wild in as few as 20 years.
Elephant populations were actually on the rise as recently as a decade ago, in the wake of a 1989 global ban on the ivory trade. After that measure met with some success, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allowed for a “one-off” sale in 2008, permitting Chinese and Japanese markets to trade ivory obtained prior to 1989.
This unintentionally resulted in the rejuvenation of the ivory trade, given the great difficulty in determining what ivory was obtained before 1989 and what was obtained after. Poaching has now become a worse problem than it was prior to the 1989 ban.
Learn more about the illegal ivory trade – and its links to terrorism – here.