CHINA, ELEPHANTS AND IVORY
China is the world's largest importer of smuggled tusks, accounting for 70 percent of the world's ivory market in the mid 2010s. Known as "white gold" in China, ivory and tusks, often with intricate carvings, can fetch almost $3,000 per kilogram on the black market and at shops in Shanghai and elsewhere. In 2017, China formally banned ivory sales but trade is thought to still continue.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the ivory trade in 1989, but China was allowed to trade domestically and had around 150 licensed shops. In 2009, the Chinese government was given permission to import one consignment of more than 60 tonnes of ivory from Africa. After that poaching and smuggling and the illegal ivory trade soared. [Source: Sophie Brown and Susan Wang, CNN, January 6, 2014]
A report published in July 2012 said that China remained the main destination for large-scale ivory consignments. More than 24 tons of illegal ivory was seized worldwide in 2011, the most since a ban on the trade was introduced in 1989. Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder and director of Save the Elephants, said “one hundred thousand elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa in just three years between 2010 and 2012 according to our research. China holds the key to the future of elephants — without China’s leadership in ending demand for ivory Africa’s elephants could disappear from the wild within a generation.” [Source: Jerome Starkey, The Times, August 16, 2012]
China-Fueled Elephant Slaughter in Africa
Frank Pope wrote in the Times of London in 2011, “Africa is facing its worst elephant poaching crisis for decades with bulls being slaughtered illegally to meet the demand for ivory from China’s nouveau riche. Even in one of the continent’s best protected reserves, the Samburu National Park in northern Kenya, more elephants have been lost in the past two and a half years than in the previous 11. During the last five months, the level of poaching has been the worst on record. [Source: Frank Pope, Times of London, August 2011]
Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s but, according to the most recent estimates, now has about 600,000. “Even within well-protected, closely monitored populations, bull elephants and matriarchs are being targeted for their large tusks — skewing sex ratios and leaving leaderless herds of orphans,” said Dr Douglas-Hamilton. In 2010, 30,000 elephants were poached from just one reserve, Selous, in Tanzania.
Dr Cynthia Moss, an elephant zoologist at the Amboseli reserve in Kenya, is certain that a decision by the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to relax a 20-year ban on the ivory trade is to blame. “In 2008, Cites allowed China to buy ivory from a stockpile, and in early 2009 — for the first time in 20 years — we started seeing poaching,” she said. Demand from China’s nouveaux riche has driven the price of ivory to $700 a pound or more, which has encouraged poachers all the more. “If the 200 to 300 million affluent, middle-class Chinese chose ivory as a fashion item, then it could destroy a large part of Africa’s elephants,” Douglas-Hamilton said.
In November 2016, Al Jazeera released a shocking undercover documentary on the mass killing of rhinos and elephants in Africa to supply the market in China and Vietnam, , with Johannesburg-based Chinese “businessmen” giving details on camera, about their smuggling of these animal parts to China (even via Beijing airport). Local Chinese middlemen, as well as dealers in Fujian, talk about these crimes, how difficult it is to commit them, the prices, the members of the latest Chinese presidential delegation also buying these things in South
Chinese Ivory Demand of the Killing of 90,000 Tanzanian Elephants
In 2014, Africa’s elephants were being massacred, at a rate estimated of 100 per day. Tanzania was among the worst hit. It lost more elephants than any other country, an estimated 10,000 in 2013 alone, A Swedish survey of one area there — Selous Game Reserve, a vast wilderness larger than Switzerland, — found the number of elephants decreased from 55,000 to 13,000 between 2008 and 2014. The New York Times reported: “The slaughter of African elephants has increased along with China’s influence on the continent, and a report by the Tanzania Elephant Protection Society said relations between the two countries “fuel elephant killings.” “At the root of Tanzania’s elephant disaster lies a toxic blend of governance failures, corruption and criminality,” the Environmental Investigation Agency report said. [Source: Sinosphere, New York Times, November 5, 2014]
“Game rangers share information on patrol patterns and the location of herds, it said. Police officers rent out weapons and transport tusks. Officers with the Tanzania Revenue Authority permit shipping containers full of ivory to exit the country’s ports. In 2014, the report said, 21 game rangers were fired for cooperating with poachers after an internal investigation by Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The organization has traced bribery and collusion in ivory smuggling to politicians from Tanzania’s governing party, led by President Jakaya Kikwete. When he took office in 2005, there were about 142,000 elephants in Tanzania. By the time Mr. Kikwete stepoed in 2015, population have declined to just 55,000. Tanzania currently bans all domestic and international trade in ivory.
“The Tanzanian government under Mr. Kikwete tried three times to gain permission from Cites to sell its ivory stockpile. It has also sought to ease restrictions on Tanzania’s elephants in order to take advantage of a growing demand for ivory in Asia, particularly in China. “This business involves rich people and politicians who have formed a very sophisticated network,” said Khamis Kagasheki, a former Tanzanian Natural Resources and Tourism minister. Investigators with the organization have documented, often with hidden cameras, Chinese and Tanzanian smugglers acknowledging that they had bought and sold illegal ivory, which several Chinese traffickers said accounted for 90 percent of the Chinese ivory market. “Even if they kill all the African elephants, it won’t be enough to make these,” said one Chinese smuggler on camera, referring to the ivory chopsticks in his hand.
“Chinese smugglers have set up a widespread network in Tanzania that includes staff members of the Chinese Embassy in the country’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, the organization said. During a November 2013 raid on a house in a suburb of Dar es Salaam, the police found 706 tusks, large amounts of cash, scales, a minibus with a secret compartment for hiding ivory, and license plates. The three Chinese men arrested were packing the tusks in sacks under snail shells and garlic. According to the report, the suspects used a business exporting seafood to conceal their ivory smuggling.
“A month later, the official connection became apparent when a Chinese naval fleet docked at the port of Dar es Salaam for four days of “cultural exchanges.” The official visit benefited local ivory traders, the report said, with one dealer boasting of earning $50,000 from sales to Chinese naval personnel. During the visit, a Chinese citizen named Yu Bo was arrested trying to enter the port with 81 tusks — ivory from about 40 elephants. Convicted of ivory smuggling and fined $5.6 million, Mr. Yu was sentenced to 20 years in prison; he is the only person to have been convicted in eight major cases since 2009.
Ivory Markets in Hong Kong and Guangzhou
Alex Shoumatoff wrote in Vanity Fair, “In the corridor leading from my plane to the formalities in Hong Kong International Airport, there is a display cabinet of forbidden wildlife products, including a hawksbill-turtle shell and an elaborately carved elephant tusk. But this isn’t stopping Hong Kong and adjacent Macao from being two of the main destinations for African ivory. A few days ago 2,200 pounds of ivory were seized on the beach of the Westin hotel in Macao. Using the commonly accepted figure of 12.6 pounds for the average pair of tusks, that would be 175 elephants. An average 45,000 pounds of ivory a year have been seized in the past decade. Using Interpol’s 10 percent estimate, which is based on the amount of drugs they believe they are intercepting — meaning 90 percent gets past them — that would be 450,000 pounds, or more than 35,000 elephants a year. So IFAW’s 36,500-a-year estimate, 100 a day, is definitely possible. [Source: Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair, August 2011]
In the shopping arcade of the hotel where I am staying, there are a few bangles identified as “genuine ivory” for sale. Their prices range from $200 to $600. “I thought ivory was banned,” I tell the saleswoman. “This is a free port. You can buy whatever you want,” she says. “But there’s a display at the airport that says it’s forbidden,” I say, and the woman, shamelessly quick on her feet, says, “Well, yes, African ivory is. But this is mammoth ivory. Status fine.” But the bangles are pure, creamy white, unlike mammoth ivory, which is nut-colored or streaky — this is unquestionably savanna ivory from Africa.
“I take the evening train to Guangzhou, a big wholesale city and a mecca for thousands of African traders, who buy apparel and footwear to take back home to sell in Dakar or Kinshasa. The three men sitting next to me are Congolese. Guangzhou has a growing population of eight million people... The next morning Crystal and I go to a jade store in the Liwan District to see if there are any ivory hanko. Hanko are the signature seals that documents in China and Japan are traditionally stamped with. The seals in Japan are round; in China they are square. Japanese tourists fly to Hong Kong or Shanghai for the weekend, where ivory is cheaper, and pick up a cylinder of ivory and take it back to a Japanese hanko shop that will then carve their seal. There are plenty of perfectly good substitutes, like ox bone or wood, but ivory hanko have cachet. It’s like owning a Mont Blanc pen.
The salesman tells us there is strict government control of ivory. “We can’t sell ivory publicly, but, “I have a friend who can do it. How many hanko you want.” We continue to the Hualin Street wholesale jade market, which has all kinds of beautiful stuff, not only jade. Contraband wildlife artifacts are openly displayed. One stall has hawksbill-turtle-shell eyeglass frames and combs. In another the man shows us two ivory bangles, a tiny abacus, a little Buddha, and a small tusk carved with a cabbage-leaf motif. He has his own factory in Fujian Province. The ivory comes from Africa by ship to a port near Taiwan. With a little coaxing he brings out the big stuff, wrapped in plastic: a two-foot-long tusk with the cabbage-leaf design for 28,000 yuan (a little more than $4,000).
“Do they have to kill the elephant?,” I ask him.”No,” he says. “After you get the ivory, teeth grow again, just like human teeth.”In the morning I say good-bye to Crystal. “You will see many changes in your lifetime,” I tell her. “China will have taken over the world, and maybe there will be no more elephants.” I will never let that happen,” she promises me. David Tang, a member of China’s expatriate community in Kenya, said it was becoming harder to buy ivory in China. “There used to be shops selling ivory openly, but not any more.”
China’s Illegal Ivory Soars in the 2010s
Save The Elephants reported in 2014: The illegal ivory trade is exploding in China, overwhelming efforts to enforce the law, according to the results of the first detailed research on the markets of Beijing and Shanghai since 2002, published by Save the Elephants and The Aspinall Foundation. Skyrocketing demand for ivory in China — the wholesale price of raw elephant tusks has tripled in just four years since 2010 — have sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory that is driving the unsustainable killing of elephants in Africa, say the authors, seasoned ivory market researchers Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin. [Source: Save The Elephants, December 9, 2014]
“They visited 8 ivory-carving factories and found 275 retail outlets selling ivory in Beijing and Shanghai, surveying prices, types and overall numbers of artefacts on sale and compared the results with what they had found on previous surveys in 2002. “Every metric on the ivory trade has exploded upwards in recent years. The prices of raw and worked ivory in China, number of licensed carving factories, retail outlets both illegal and legal, items on sale, all have shot up. Meanwhile the weight of ivory seized and number of elephants being killed in Africa have also increased,” say the authors.
“They found that the growing legal ivory trade in China is providing a smokescreen for illegal activity. The number of authorised factories and retail outlets has quadrupled in the last decade, but illegal shops outnumbered legal ones by a factor of three in Beijing and a factor of eight in Shanghai. A licence to sell was no guarantee that the selling was legal, the researchers found. 20 out of the 34 registered dealers visited in Beijing were selling ivory that either did not have or did not match the Compulsory Collection Cards that are the official control on the trade.
“The trade in mammoth ivory has more than tripled since the 2000s and is also disguising the illegal trade in elephant tusks. Mammoth ivory can be confused with elephant ivory if the quantity is small or the observer inexperienced. The confusion suits vendors in both licenced and illegal elephant ivory outlets.
“Vendors in both cities reported that over 90 per cent of their customers were Chinese, a feature of the trade not seen since the mid-19th Century. In the mid-1980s most ivory buyers originated from Japan, Europe and the US (in that order), but after a ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1990 the trade collapsed. In 2008 CITES allowed the sale of 62 tonnes of ivory to China, reigniting an ivory industry fuelled by demand from newly-wealthy Chinese.
Selected statistics from the study:
A) The wholesale price of raw tusks has tripled in just four years since 2010
B) In Beijing retail prices increased 13.5 times between 2002 and 2014. In Shanghai prices rose 8 times in the same period.
C) The number of licensed factories and retail outlets in China has quadrupled in the last 10 years. In 2004 there were 9 factories and 31 authorised retail outlets. In 2013 there were 37 factories and 145 retail outlets.
D) The number of elephant ivory items on sale in Beijing and Shanghai increased from 5,241 in 2002 to 8,444 in 2014.
E) The most common ivory items on sale in the two cities were pendants and figurines, making up 48 percent of items in Beijing and 34 percent in Shanghai.
F) Legal outlets are far outnumbered by illegal ones. In Beijing at least 78 percent were illegal (121 out of 156 ivory outlets). In Shanghai at least 89 percent were illegal (106 out of 119 outlets).
G) The number of ivory items displayed in illegal outlets was smaller than that in the legal shops. 26.5 percent of items surveyed in Beijing and Shanghai were illegal by government definition.
H) Mammoth tusk imports to China from Hong Kong (by far the largest source) have gone from an average of 9 tons a year between 2000 and 2003, compared to 31 tons between 2007 and 2013. The price of top-grade mammoth ivory has gone up from an average of $350/kg in 2010 to $1900/kg.
Forces Behind the Ivory Market in China
One of the biggest challenges to combating the ivory trade in China is reducing demand among consumers, say animal welfare campaigners.“According to a 2013 WildAid report, many Chinese residents have little awareness of how ivory sales contribute to the poaching that has caused the world's elephant population to decline. [Source: Sophie Brown and Susan Wang, CNN, January 6, 2014]
Alex Shoumatoff wrote in Vanity Fair, “The previous slaughter was driven by Japan’s economic boom. This new crisis is driven by China’s or bao fa hu (the “suddenly wealthy”), who are as numerous as the entire population of Japan. The main consumers are middle-aged men who have just made it into the middle class and are eager to flaunt their ability to make expensive discretionary purchases. Beautiful ivory carvings are traditional symbols of wealth and status. [Source: Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair, August 2011]
Grace Ge Gabriel of the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) told Vanity Fair,“Chinese society today is ruled by one principle only: Make Money for Me. On the way to make riches for oneself, there is no concern for anything, including other people and the environment, let alone animals. Unfortunately, the south-Chinese practice of “eating everything in sight” is adopted by a lot more people now. And the Chinese have the ability to travel all over the world now. Especially in countries where law and order are not well established, these Chinese feel that they can get away with eating anything and everything.”
“Another problem,” Crystal, an IFAW agent, said “is that the Chinese word for ivory is elephant’s teeth” xiang ya. We did a survey. Seventy percent thought tusks can fall out and be collected by traders and grow back, that getting ivory did not mean the elephant is killed, and more than 80 percent would reject ivory products and not buy any more if they knew elephants were being killed, so it’s ignorance.”But the same survey found reluctance to comply with the ivory-control system and a desire for “affordable” ivory. Fourteen and a half percent of those polled were already ivory consumers, and 76 percent were willing to break the law to buy ivory at a cheaper price. Liwan District, Guangzhou
Peter Knights, director of WildAid, an organization that uses Chinese celebrities, like N.B.A. star Yao Ming and Jackie Chan, to encourage Chinese not to buy ivory, told Vanity Fair, “It’s a combination of new money and old ideas, a huge bubble we’re trying to burst. The younger generation gets it. It’s the aging new wealthy, who have tremendous purchasing power and see acquiring ivory as part of holding on to their historic Chinese-ness, who have to be reached — before there’s no more ivory left to buy.” Knights told Vanity Fair the Chinese government has been very supportive. CCTV, the state-owned television station, and a whole range of other outlets have donated media time and aired everything from 15- to 30-second public-service announcements to five-minute shorts to half-hour documentaries.
Africa-China Ivory Network
Alex Shoumatoff wrote in Vanity Fair in 2011, “In the first week of May 2011 alone, a ton of ivory was confiscated in Kenya, more than 1,300 pounds in Vietnam — from Tanzania — and a Chinese man was arrested at Entebbe airport in Uganda with 34 pieces of ivory. To top it off, a South Korean diplomat was caught trying to bring 16 tusks into Seoul. [Source: Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair, August 2011]
Once ivory gets to Nairobi and is ready to be shipped, the Chinese involvement becomes traceable. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers and other temporary laborers are employed on road, logging, mining, and oil-drilling crews in all of the elephants’ range states. Some manage to make it home with a few pounds of ivory hidden in their suitcases, thus doubling their meager earnings, or they are recruited as carriers for higher-ups. But they are not the real problem. The real problem is the managers, who have the resources to directly commission some local to kill an elephant and bring them the tusks, and diplomats, whose bags are not checked, and the Chinese businessmen, who are taking over the economy of Africa.
In the last decade the number of Chinese residents in Africa has grown from 70,000 to more than a million. China’s trade on the continent — $114 billion last year — is expected to keep increasing by over 40 percent a year. According to Traffic, a nonprofit wildlife-trade-monitoring network, each day, somewhere in the world, an average of two Chinese nationals are arrested with ivory.
Back to the tusks. Maybe the smugglers deliver them to Mombasa. K.W.S. knows the networks. Once there, little boats come from big ships offshore to private wharves of local “tycoons” with heroin and guns and return with ivory. The drug, arms, money-laundering, and ivory trades are intertwined, K.W.S.’s Julius Kipng — etich told me. Where you have one, you have the others. Once on the big ship, the ivory is hidden in shipping containers with legal consignments like sisal (the fibrous agave that twine is made from), avocados, or pottery.
All over Africa, ivory from freshly killed elephants is being put on planes or ships and is hopscotching around the Middle East and Asia: to Beirut, Dubai, Bangkok (the big hub at the moment), Taipei, Vietnam, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao. One consignment hidden in sisal made it all the way from Tanzania to the Philippines and was sent from there to Taiwan, whose customs thought, Sisal from Tanzania going to the Philippines, the world capital of sisal production? That’s like importing oranges to Florida. So they opened the crates, and there were 484 pieces of ivory.
Once a shipment leaves Africa, it never goes directly to the final destination. The routes are constantly changing. It’s a shell game, as Wasser says. But eventually most of the ivory arrives, by land, sea, air, or a combination thereof, in Guangzhou, formerly Canton, China’s main ivory-carving-and-trading center, just up the coast from Hong Kong. All roads lead to Guangzhou. There are around 100 master carvers in this humming city of eight million. Most of them are working in illegal factories. But there are also legal, state-owned factories, which get their ivory from the one-off sales of old stock that CITES allowed South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to have in 2008. These sales supplied 100 tons of ivory to the Chinese and Japanese markets. The argument for allowing them to happen was that China and Japan would be happy with so much ivory, and the poaching would be reduced, but they have had the opposite effect: the poaching has been showing a steady rise, and a lot of illegal ivory is being passed off as old stock.
In August 2011 AP reported: “Hong Kong customs officers have seized a large shipment of African ivory hidden in a container that arrived by sea from Malaysia. Hong Kong government officials said on Tuesday that officers found 794 pieces of ivory tusks estimated to be worth $HK13 million ($1.5 million).The officers found the tusks, which were hidden by stones, on Monday after deciding to examine the shipment, which the officials said was labelled "nonferrous products for factory use". [Source: AP, August 31, 2011]
The container arrived from Malaysia, but the officials did not say where it originated from. A 66-year-old man was arrested and officials are investigating. Wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said the shipment appeared destined for China, which it considers the leading driver of African poaching. A few weeks before 1041 tusks were seized on the island of Zanzibar, concealed in a container of anchovies destined for Malaysia, an important transit point for ivory smuggling.
Ivory, Chinese Government Officials and Infrastructure Projects
Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post: When Chinese President Xi Jinping took a large government and business delegation to Tanzania on his inaugural trip abroad in March 2013, he took pains to emphasize that his country’s growing ties with Africa would benefit the people of the continent. But even as he spoke in glowing terms about unity and cooperation, his entourage was busy buying up thousands of kilograms of illegal ivory, using the cover afforded by their official status to smuggle it home, an investigative report alleges. “Such was the scale of the purchases that local prices in one market in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, doubled to $318 per pound during the president’s visit, according to “Vanishing Point: Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants,” released by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Tanzania, according to the report, lost half its elephants between 2009 and 2014. In 2013, it says, about 10,000 were killed, or nearly 30 a day.[Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, November 6, 2014]
Frank Pope wrote in the Times of London “The increasing number of Chinese-led infrastructure projects in eastern Africa have provided a ready supply of middlemen willing to send ivory eastwards, where it fetches around £540 (NZ$1040) a kilo, according to Esmond Martin, an ivory trade expert. [Source: Frank Pope, Times of London, August 2011]
Alex Shoumatoff wrote in Vanity Fair in 2011, “Ninety percent of the passengers who are being arrested for possession of ivory at Jomo Kenyatta are Chinese nationals, and half the poaching in Kenya is happening within 20 miles of one of the five massive Chinese road-building projects in various stages of completion. [Source: Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair, August 2011]
There had been almost no poaching around Amboseli for 30 years before a Chinese company got the contract to build a 70-mile-long highway just above the park. Since the road crews arrived, in 2009, four of Amboseli’s magnificent big-tusked bulls have been killed, and the latest word is that the poachers are now going after the matriarchs — a social and genetic disaster, because elephants live in matriarchies, and removing the best breeders of both sexes from the gene pool could funnel the Amboseli population into what is known as an “extinction vortex.”
Combating the Chinese Ivory Trade and Celebrities
Retired NBA basketball star Yao Ming did his share to combat the ivory trade. Jerome Starkey wrote in The Times, “Flies buzzing around the reeking carcass did not deter China’s best-known sportsman from facing the tragedy. Three tonnes of African elephant lay rotting in the bush, scraps of blackened hide still clinging to bones too large for scavengers to steal. It was the third dead elephant that the Yao Ming, had seen that day. Two had had their tusks hacked off by poachers. The third had died of an infected gunshot wound but had fled to a quiet place in a dry riverbed in the lee of the Matthews mountain range in Kenya. Wardens removed its tusks before the poachers could. Working with the American charity WildAid, Yao has helped to persuade officials in Beijing to stop serving shark-fin soup at banquets. Peter Knights, the charity’s director, said he hoped that a series of public service announcements and a documentary filmed in Kenya and South Africa would have a similar effect on demand for elephant tusks and rhino horn. [Source: Jerome Starkey, The Times, August 16, 2012]
In February 2015, , broadcaster David Attenborough was one of several signatories of an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling China’s leader to outlaw the buying and selling of ivory completely and to provide Chinese citizens with information on the issue. Movie stars Jackie Chan, and Li Bingbing led a group of 100 Chinese celebrities and company people to pledge an “ivory free year” for 2015. British Crown Prince William joined Yao Ming and David Beckham to do some anti-poaching publicity. [Source: BBC, February 24, 2015]
In December 2012, Malaysia seizes 1,500 elephant tusks — worth $20 million weighing as much as all the illegally traded ivory seized globally in 2010 — heading for China. The shipment was estimated at between 20 and 24 tonnes, and was discovered in two shipping containers by the Malaysian customs department at busy container terminal Port Klang, near Kuala Lampur. It was en route from Togo in west Africa to China, and had been transferred from one ship to another in Spain. "The two containers were found to be filled with sawn timber. Inside the wood there were secret compartments that were filled with elephant tusks," said state customs director Azis Yaacub. It is the fourth such seizure in Malaysia in 2012. [Source: Adam Vaughan, The Guardian, December 12, 2012]
Chinese Actions Against the Ivory Trade
In January 2014, China crushed 6.15 tons from its stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory. The confiscated elephant tusks and carvings were crushed in a ceremony in the city of Guangzhou The event came two months after the U.S. destroyed its own stockpile, Animal welfare groups welcomed the move as a first step to combat wildlife trafficking [Source: Sophie Brown and Susan Wang, CNN, January 6, 2014]
In February 2015, China imposed one-year ban on ivory imports amid criticism that demand among Chinese consumers was behind an increase in elephant poaching in Africa. The announcement was made by the State Forestry Administration, with officials saying they hoped it would be a first step towards protecting wild elephants. [Source: BBC, February 24, 2015]
Afterwards the price of raw ivory in Asia fell dramatically according to undercover investigators from the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) who visited traders in Hanoi between 2014 and 2017. In 2015 they were being offered raw ivory for an average of US$1322/kg in 2015, by October 2016 that price had dropped to $750/kg, and by February 2017, prices were as much as 50 percent lower overall, at $660/kg. Traders complained that the ivory business had become very “difficult and unprofitable”, saying they want to get rid of their stock, according to the unpublished report seen by the Guardian. Worryingly, however, others stockpiled ivory waiting for prices to go up again. At that time Vietnam was a major ivory production center and a supplier of Chinese ivory products. [Source: Naomi Larsson, Save the Elephants, June 2, 2017]
On the last day of 2017, China formally banned ivory sales. Earlier in the year it shut down a third (67) of its ivory carving factories and stores. The remaining 105 outlets were shut at the end of 2017. The high-profile move was hailed by activists, but said the ivory trade was still active afterwards in Hong Kong. [Source: Farah Master, Reuters, March 31, 2017]
Two years after the ban, the World Wildlife Fund reported: In the wake of the ban, WWF conducted annual surveys of Chinese consumers and found a promising decline in elephant ivory buying. Nearly 80 percent of respondents say they support the ban. And beyond the survey, we tracked black market activity and found that wholesale prices of ivory in the country have dropped. Unfortunately, we also found that one consumer group has actually increased its interest in buying ivory: people who regularly travel outside mainland China. [Source: World Wildlife Fund, December 31, 2019]
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated July 2022