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The Ivory Trade Loses Its Biggest Player

2 minute read

On Dec. 30, China committed to a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017. The decision, hailed by conservation groups as historic, could help end the global trade of ivory for good. Here’s why:


The Chinese market represents an estimated 70% of the world’s ivory trade, making it the biggest in the world. Ivory carving in China is considered a fine art and a cultural tradition. Corrupt officials–known to accept ivory as bribes–had resisted curbing sales for years.


China’s move could have a huge effect on poaching. Experts say more than 100,000 African elephants have been killed for their tusks over the past decade. Conservation groups hope China’s commitment will inspire other major ivory traders, like Thailand, to follow suit.


The ban is just the latest example of China’s acting to protect the environment. In 2016 alone, it agreed to discuss commercial tiger farming, ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change and introduced taxes on pollutants. “China wants to be seen as part of the global village,” says Will Travers, president of wildlife charity Born Free. “It’s playing at the top table in every respect.”


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Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com