China’s ivory market is shrinking with the decline in the number of ivory items for sale, ahead of the government’s ban on ivory trade, animal rights organizations said.
Two wildlife conservation organizations, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and TRAFFIC, found that the number of ivory items — in both legal and illegal ivory markets in China—has declined alongside falling ivory prices, according to a joint report sent to the Global Times on Sunday.
After a survey of 503 physical outlets in 22 cities where ivory was being sold illegally, researchers from these organizations found that, on average, only five ivory items were for sale per outlet. This marks the lowest number of publicly displayed ivory since 2007, compared with nine items per shop in 2016 and 18 items per shop in 2007, the report said. “The decline in the number of ivory items for sale is a result of China’s efforts to ban the ivory trade,” Sun Quanhui, a senior scientific adviser at the international NGO World Animal Protection, told the Global Times.
China will ban all commercial ivory processing and trade by the end of 2017, the State Council, China’s cabinet, announced on December 30, 2016. The announcement has been highly hailed by the international community, and is a sign of the Chinese government’s intent to participate in global ecological governance.
The State Forestry Administration (SFA) issued a notice in March, ordering 67 out of 172 ivory stores accredited by the SFA to close their shops before March 31, and the remaining 105 to close before December 31.
Researchers from the two organizations surveyed 50 stores that were scheduled to be shut down in the first round of closures, and found that just one store was still selling ivory, albeit surreptitiously.
But among the stores that are slated to be closed by December 31, some 28 percent were found to be in violation, including failure to displace identification cards corresponding to displayed ivory items not operating in approved locations, and so forth, the report said.
The researchers found that compared to 2012, the average price of ivory chopsticks in the illegal market had declined by 57%. Data from law enforcement authorities also shows that the price of raw ivory has been falling sharply in recent years: in Beijing. It declined by 20-25% between 2015 and 2016, and by 50% in 2017.
”Once implemented, the blanket ban on commercial ivory trade should facilitate law enforcement efforts and raise consumer awareness about the illegality of the trade,” said Zhou Fei, head of TRAFFIC’s China Office and the Wildlife Trade Programme of the WWF China.
After the announcement of the ban, the illegal trade of ivory has been moving to second-tier cities where there’s weaker enforcement and people have low awareness about animal protection, Sun said. Most illegal ivory products are concentrated in second-tier cities, the report said. The researchers found 1,742 illegal ivory products in 14 second-tier cities, accounting for 76 percent of the total illegal ivory products they surveyed.
Sun suggested that the forestry police should join hands with the local industry and commerce departments to enhance their surveillance of local antique markets.
He also noted that relevant departments should develop border cooperation with neighboring countries, especially after the ivory trade is completely banned.
The WWF and TRAFFIC said they found that some ivory were smuggled directly into China from Africa, and some transited via Vietnam to South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Sun also urged the government to introduce a detailed regulation on dealing with inventories of these ivory products after China bans the trading of these products at the end of this year.