China, the world’s largest ivory market, closed out 2016 with a monumental announcement. On December 31, 2016, the Chinese government released a detailed timetable for ending its legal ivory trade.

According to the timeline, commercial procession and sale of ivory will cease on March 31, 2017, with all domestic sales of ivory banned by the end of the year.

TreadRight project partner WildAid played an important role in helping to foster the environment that allowed the announcement to take place. In 2013, WildAid launched a three-year campaign to reduce demand for elephant ivory in China.  The organization’s lobbying and awareness efforts saw WildAid spend millions on television ads, documentaries, subways ads and other public service messages, bringing in superstars like retired NBA superstar Yao Ming to assist.

WildAid CEO Peter Knights said, “China’s exit from the ivory trade is the greatest single step that could be taken to reduce poaching for elephants. We thank President Xi for his leadership and congratulate the State Forestry Administration for this timely plan. We will continue to support their efforts through education and persuading consumers not to buy ivory.”

“WildAid’s amazing track record of success was what first inspired TreadRight to provide support for their highly-influential conservation efforts,” said Shannon Guihan, Program Director, TreadRight Foundation. “We applaud WildAid and all parties involved in increasing awareness of this important cause in China, and celebrate with them on their monumental victory.”

China’s extensive new plan will no longer allow ivory products to be displayed in real or online markets, only non-commercial sites such as museums will be allowed to display ivory.

In 1989, an international ban on the ivory trade failed to slow the slaughter of elephants for their tusks as the ban didn’t include so-called older ivory – ivory taken from elephants before 1989 – meaning poachers continued to kill elephants and then pass it off as “old ivory” into the legal trade. China’s ban on the ivory trade altogether will hopefully ensure that similar loopholes will not exist this time. 

China’s plan also involves strict regulation of legal ivory collection, the strengthening of enforcement and education, as well as pushing for the transformation of the ivory carving industry, including a plan to assist ivory carvers find new work with museums or preservation efforts.

WildAid says the one year timeline for implementing the ban can now serve as an example for Hong Kong, whose Legislative Council is currently considering a five-year timeline, to fully implement their domestic ivory ban.  Also, now with this precedent WildAid is suggesting that the Chinese government follow up on implementing similar bans on pangolins and other species. 


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