Hope for elephants: Ivory demand drops in China

The price of ivory in China has dropped sharply as that country plans to end the legal trade in ivory later this year, a leading elephant conservation group said in a new report. That’s great news for the world’s largest land animals.

Estimates suggest that an elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes.

Chinese demand for tusks has been driving African elephants toward extinction, experts say. The United States and China have been working together to reduce demand in both countries. The two nations announced in 2015 their commitments to enact near-complete bans on the domestic ivory trade, which has been fully implemented in the U.S.

China is making progress: One-third of its ivory factories and retail outlets are to be shut down by March 31, and the rest should be closed by the end of this year.

“This is a critical period for elephants,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants, which carried out the research.

“With the end of the legal ivory trade in China, the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved. We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade,” Douglas-Hamilton said.

Wildlife authorities in Kenya, one of the main conduits of ivory smuggling in the region, welcomed the news.

“Once they don’t have an appetite for ivory it will no longer be attractive to kill elephants. We are hopeful that China will meet this deadline [to ban the ivory trade] and we will see our elephant populations restored in the parks,” said Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife Service.