China has finally banned the legal ivory trade!

in #news5 years ago

Most countries have banned the trade of ivory products many years ago, but China kept the legal market open for a much longer time. From January 1st 2018 the legal ivory market was finally banned in China as well, which is a huge win for conservation groups all over the world.


An African Elephant with two good-looking ivory tusks. Image by Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, posted as Public Domain.

What exactly is ivory?

Ivory is a hard material that has traditionally been used for ornaments, where beautiful carvings on big pieces of ivory can be extremely valuable. The chemical composition of ivory is mostly made of dentin, the same material that is the major component of our own teeth, as well as all other mammal teeth.

Most ivory comes from elephant tusks, but other sources such as mammoth tusks that have melted from the permafrost, or more common sources such as orcas, sperm whale, narwhal, wart hogs, walruses or hippos. These latter ones are less valuable compared to elephant or mammoth, since each piece is a lot smaller, and can therefore only be used for very small ornaments.

Some of the alternative ivory sources are also legal to buy, own or sell in certain countries, while elephant tusk ivory is illegal is most places, now including China, which is what I wanted to write about today.


A beautiful ivory carving made from elephant tusk. This object was seized in the United States, and was later destroyed. Image is Public Domain.

I originally intended to write a few paragraphs about how elephants are endangered because of this ivory trade, but I'm sure most of you already know a lot about that, but the short story is that elephants are extremely threatened because people kill them to loot their ivory tusks, an illegal poaching that could be worth hundreds of thousand dollars for a big pair of tusks.

The ivory trade is now illegal in China

Up until the beginning of 2018, it was fully legal to trade ivory within the Chinese borders. Due to the fact that there is an international ban on ivory, China would not legally be allowed to import ivory from another country into theirs, which makes it a mystery how China even got all its legal ivory in the first place, since there are very few elephants there compared to how much ivory they produce. Obviously a lot of it was smuggled into the country, and sold legally to rich people who wanted to show off their wealth.

Anyway, as of a few days ago, the legal trade is no more, and it will now be illegal to both sell and buy ivory even inside the national borders. This puts an end to the 143 stores that sold ivory, as well as the 34 ivory processing facilities in the country, and promises a better future for the elephants that are still alive.

Thanks for reading

Thanks for reading my post about China's ban on the ivory trade. I do think this will lead to a brighter future for the elephant species, despite the illegal market still being there. I really hope we are able to keep the elephants extant for a long time, because they are really amazing animals that would be terribly missed if they were to disappear in the wild.

Linking to the original sources is a bit tricky, since they are in Chinese, and I cannot read that, but the statement from WWF regarding the ban should be a good source to use to verify that what I write is correct.

If you are interested in this subject, then I urge you to check out the movie The Ivory Game on Netflix, it's a really good documentary about how ivory gets poached and enters the Chinese market.

And as always, leave a comment below if you got any questions, or just want to share something with the rest of us!

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