As the New Year begins China announces it is cracking down on the ivory trade and production. Beijing aims to shut down the practice by the end of 2017. It is a major step in China’s commitment to protecting wildlife.
CGTN’s Ning Hong reports from Beijing.
China cracking-down on the ivory trade and productionAs the New Year begins China announces it is cracking-down on the ivory trade and production. Beijing aims to shut down the practice by the end of 2017. It is a major step in China's commitment to protecting wildlife. CGTN’s Ning Hong reports from Beijing.
China’s ivory market is set to disappear, as the government looks to halt all commercial activities.
It will bring to an end the thousands of years of history, in which the ivory trade has been prominent throughout the country.
“By the end of March, 2017, we will shut off the activities of ten to fifteen workshops and 50 to 60 booths. And by the end of 2017, all commercial activities involving ivory will be shut off in China,” Zhang Dehui with State Forestry Administration said.
According to the State Forestry Administration, there are currently 34 production companies and 143 trade booths legally registered in China.
Ivory carving has over four-thousand-years of history in China, and first became popular after the 14th century.
Jen Samuel on combatting ivory production
Jen Samuel the President and Founder of Elephants D.C., a nonprofit devoted to elephant conservation and combating the ivory trade comments on China’s push to eliminate ivory production.
Jen Samuel on combatting the Ivory tradeJen Samuel the President and Founder of Elephants D.C., a nonprofit devoted to elephant conservation and combating the ivory trade comments on China's push to eliminate ivory production.
The Beijing Ivory Carving Factory is one location that has kept the essence of the tradition.
It is a resolute decision that China has made to help to preserve wildlife. However, for craftsman here, it is their priority to preserve the cultural heritage that lasted for over several thousand years.
In its heyday throughout the 1970s, hundreds of people worked here, with most of the products sold to developed countries. Now there are only 25 people. Their main job is to learn carving skills.
“We’re seeking the social benefits… a heritage that has been passed down for thousands of years. Once it is lost, it will never be recovered. It would be such a pity of those skills were lost in our generation,” Zheng Shiru, an ivory craftsman said.
The ivory they use is the last bunch of ivory that China has imported. The import came with the permission of the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species and wild fauna and Flora, based in South Africa, in 2008. Each piece was marked and is traceable.
“We are against the illegal hunting and smuggling of ivory. All our ivory is taken from elephants that died of natural causes. Our main goal is to preserve the craftsmanship. Many of our products are not for sale, we keep them as a reminder of our ivory carving tradition,” Xiao Guangyi, General Manager of
Beijing Ivory Carving Factory said.
It is estimated that there are only around 1600 craftsman working in the ivory carving industry now in China.
In the meantime, China has led three successive cross-continent operations code-named “Cobra” to crack down on the illegal trade of ivory, and had confiscated over 70 tons of trafficked ivory.
“Protecting wild elephants in Africa and Asia requires the efforts of countries across the world. China has fulfilled its obligation to the international community. However, ivory products are still being traded in Europe and United States. It would be a brand new stage for the protection of wild elephants if they closed their market as well,” Jiang Zhigang, Director of the Endangered Species Scientific Commission said.
People may only see ivory carvings in museums in the future. Yet the culture will not die, as the tradition looks to live on.