The State Council of China has approved the ban on the sales and commercial processing of elephant tusks in the burgeoning ivory trade in the country by March 31, 2017, the BBC reports.
China operates the largest ivory market in the world with reports saying the country processes up to 70% of ivory trade from around the world.
According to the BBC, the price for an ivory could be as much as $1,100 or £850 per kilogram in China.
In October 2016, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) had met in South Africa and moved that countries from around the world halt the purchase and processing of elephant tusks as a way to stop the poaching and killing of elephants in Africa.
China’s final ban on the trade is a follow-up to the resolution reached at the conference.
The ban on ivory has been in effect globally since 1989, but some countries still continue to trade in the material and chief among these has been China, until the recent ban. All approved traders in ivory in the country will be deregistered and their ivory trading permits revoked between now and March 31, and the ivory market will be fully closed before the end of this year.
Thousands of elephants in Africa have been decimated due to the activities of poachers dealing in tusks and shipping the material to foreign markets. Conservation groups have always expressed dismay at the dwindling rates of elephant populations on the continent and fear that elephants are already becoming endangered and facing extinction in Africa.
“Setting such an aggressive timeline to close – once and for all – the largest domestic ivory market in the world is globally significant,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Wall Street Journal blames the rising middle class in China for the country’s growing demand for ivory products, ultimately resulting in the deaths of between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants every year – the World Wildlife Fund stated.
The use of ivory is considered a symbol of social status and personal wealth in China. There are 34 official ivory processing factories in China all operating from 143 designated sales centers – all of these must be closed down by the end of this year, according to the country’s top forestry officials.
Li Bingbing, a Chinese actress and blogger wrote that China’s “rollout of new protection measures is the best New Year gifts to elephants” all over the world, and she looks forward to protection for other endangered species.