Skyrocketing demand for ivory in China has stoked the booming illegal trade and led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants annually between 2010 and 2012, according to a new report.
Researchers from Save the Elephants and the Aspinall Foundation found that “every metric on the ivory trade has exploded upwards in recent years,” from the price of raw ivory to the number of factories and retail outlets. “All have shot up,” the report says.
In 2002, the report says, there were 5,241 elephant ivory goods on sale in Beijing and Shanghai. But in 2014, that number had risen to 8,444. A decade ago, there were 9 factories and 31 authorized ivory retail outlets in China. By 2013, the researchers found, there were 37 factories and 145 retail outlets.
The authors say China “holds the key to the future of elephants.” China has become the major source of illegal ivory smuggled in from Africa, even as it holds on to a stockpile of ivory that can be sold legally. The Chinese government has begun cracking down on illegal smugglers in recent years, but they’re currently losing the battle against dark trade.
“At the moment we are not winning the conservation battle against the elephant poachers, traffickers and consumers of ivory. Laws are in place but even in China they are not being adequately enforced. The system is presently out of control,” say the authors of the report in a press release.
Many countries have taken steps to combat the illegal trade of ivory in recent years, often holding large and symbolic events showcasing the destruction of goods. During his current trip to the U.S., Prince William has been calling for more countries to do more to conserve wildlife and end ivory trafficking.