Here’s to China for the Elephants!

6 Jan 2014

Today, China destroyed some of the stockpiles of illegal elephant ivory seized along and within its borders.

In accordance with CITES* Decisions, the traders accredited by the Chinese government bought, at auctions, 60 tonnes of ivory in 2008 from 4 countries in southern Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The average price was 157 US$/kg, ten times less expensive than black market rates at the time. Following this 172 workshops and retail stores were supplied elephant tusks benefiting from a specific license.

The opening of a limited legal ivory market trigged a flood of illegal ivory to satisfy a growing and varying demand in China. The duly registered traders added to their legal stock smuggled ivory and internet sites offered ivory originating from international trafficking.

The decision to destroy the illegal ivory is extremely important. Relayed by the press, it will provoke awareness among buyers and slow domestic demand. This radical initiative will also reduce the risks of theft of confiscated ivory stockpiles. In October 2013 in Vietnam 4 employees from the Department of Justice were arrested for stealing 100 kg of ivory which had just been seized and impounded.

The new Chinese doctrine on the management of illegal ivory also finds its grounds in foreign policy: voices are rising louder and louder in eastern Africa, in southern Africa, and in western Africa to denounce the major role of Chinese expats within networks of elephant poaching and ivory smuggling.

The total stockpile of illegal ivory in China could amount to several dozen of tonnes. Robin des Bois is hoping that all stocks are subject to this final treatment.

This event follows the recent destruction of stockpiles of illegal ivory in the Philippines, in India and in the United States. France will be the first European country to destroy stockpiles of illegal ivory in early February 2014.

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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