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China’s ban on its legal, government-sanctioned ivory came into full effect on Sunday.
The ban, which comes two years after a joint pledge with the United States to prohibit the buying and selling of ivory, will see all of China’s government-licensed carving factories and ivory retailers shut down.
China is believed to be the world’s largest consumer of ivory – both legal and illegal – and it is the reason for the death of some 30,000 African elephants by poachers.
“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 World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement.
She added: “This ban alone won’t end the poaching of elephants. 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 Peter Knights said: “We can start 2018 hopeful that elephants will be safer now that China has banned commercial ivory sales. Prices are down, and law enforcement efforts in many parts of Africa and Asia are much improved.”
“The United Nations has unanimously called for domestic ivory sales bans, and many other countries are responding with action,” Knights said.
“Japan alone remains unwilling to join the global community on this issue.”