China Closing Ivory Markets as Publications Assess Status, Costs and Control of Elephant Poaching
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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China’s State Forestry Administration announced ivory market closures on 31 March that will shut down one-third of its officially sanctioned ivory-carvers and licensed retailers.

The CITES MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) Programme report released on World Wildlife Day (3 March) states that levels of poaching remain unacceptably high overall.

Another study estimates that the current elephant poaching crisis costs African countries US$25 million annually in lost tourism revenue.

CITES announced that Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso have signed an agreement to strengthen collaboration in wildlife law enforcement at the “Triple Point” where these countries meet.

April 2017: Following up on its 2016 announcement to end almost all domestic trade in ivory, China’s State Forestry Administration announced ivory market closures on 31 March that will shut down one-third of its officially sanctioned ivory-carvers and licensed retailers. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reports that China released a schedule showing the closure of 67 ivory retailers, with the rest to be shut down by the end of the year.

China is one of the world’s largest markets for ivory sales and its demand for tusks has contributed to the African elephant poaching crisis.

In September 2016, the US and China had jointly agreed to ban domestic trade in ivory. The US announced a near ban on all domestic ivory trading in June 2016. At that time, news outlets indicated that a Chinese timetable for reaching such a milestone would be published by the year’s end. According to CITES, in addition to the ivory market closures, China has also announced a donation of US$100,000 to the CITES Secretariat in support of implementing the outcomes of the seventeenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (CoP17), in addition to the 250% increase in its contribution to the CITES regular budget since 2010. China reports that its population of Asian elephants is healthy and increasing.

The steps taken by China have been welcomed, given recent analytics. The CITES MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) Programme report released on World Wildlife Day (3 March) states that levels of poaching remain unacceptably high overall. The publication, titled ‘Levels and Trends of Illegal Killing of Elephants in Africa to 31 December 2016 – Preliminary Findings,’ also recalls the rapid rise in elephant poaching from 2006-2011, and notes that, in 2016, this trend was halted.

The average rate of return on elephant conservation in east, west, and south Africa compares favorably with rates of return on investments in areas like education, food security and electricity.

Another study, published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ and undertaken by scientists from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the University of Vermont, and the University of Cambridge, estimates that the current elephant poaching crisis costs African countries US$25 million annually in lost tourism revenue. Referring to the research, Brendan Fisher, an economist at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, highlighted the benefits of conservation. He noted that “for every dollar invested in protecting elephants in East Africa, you get about $1.78 back…[…] with the average rate of return on elephant conservation in east, west, and south Africa comparing favorably with rates of return on investments in areas like education, food security and electricity.”

Another report, also support by the WWF, addresses demand for ivory. Titled ‘Reducing Desire for Ivory: A Psychosocial Guide to Address Ivory Consumption,’ and released in January 2017, it suggests that tackling the elephant ivory trade requires a greater understanding of consumers’ underlying desires. With a focus on China, the report is meant to support the assessment of cultural and societal forces and individual experiences and emotions that fuel consumer demand for ivory.

Finally, CITES announced that Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso have signed an agreement to strengthen collaboration in wildlife law enforcement at the “Triple Point” where these countries meet, an area referred to as the W-Arly-Pendjari Protected Area Complex (WAP). The WAP includes five protected areas in the three countries and hosts nearly 9,000 elephants. According to CITES, the agreement will allow for the implementation of activities focused on improving the capacity of local law enforcement, boosting communications and intelligence, and enhancing community and interagency collaboration and support for wildlife law enforcement operations. The project, expected to last through 2019, is funded by the European Union through the CITES MIKES project, and is being implemented in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Regional Office in Burkina Faso. [WWF Press Release on Reducing Desire for Ivory] [UN Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief] [CITES Press Release] [WWF Press Release on Report on Poaching Costs] [US Government Factsheet] [CITES Press Release on Triple Point Project]


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