Conservationists express cautious optimism on Chinese ivory ban


Mombasa,KENYA:Conservationists in the country have expressed optimism that the effect of the Ivory ban in China will help reduce poaching of elephants in Africa.

“We are pretty sure illegal demand will automatically drop significantly,” Mike Pflanz of Space for Giants an organization working towards protection of African elephants in Kenya, Uganda, Botswana and Gabon said.
The Chinese government announced in March 2017 that it would effect a ban on its legal domestic ivory market by the end of 2017.

The Chinese market had long been termed by conservationist groups as a major motivation to poaching in African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic republic of Congo and Nigeria.

The conservationists have expressed optimism that the ban would further see the drop of the already plummeting prices of ivory.

A report released by Kenyan conservation group Save the elephants in February 2017 stated ivory prices had plummeted by over 70% from $2100(sh 216,862) per kilogram in 2014 to $ 730 per kilogram in February 2017.

Despite a report released by Born Free foundation in 2014 stating that Chinese ivory traders were present in almost every step of the illegal ivory trade in Africa ,conservationists say the movement to save one of Africa’s most endangered species is far from over.

Ivory trade still being legal in some countries and underground markets in countries where the trade is illegal still poses a major challenge to elephants conservation.

“The ban applies only in mainland China but not Hong Kong which is a special administrative region in the people’s republic of China, so the traders can reroute the trade to neighboring countries where it still is legal” Mike added.

Japan has constantly sidestepped plans to clamp down on the trade while in The United Kingdom which has in the past been named as the largest exporter for ivory products, its still legal to export Ivory that has been certified to have been worked on before 1976 with antique ivory products manufactured before 1946 do not requiring a certificate.

Conservationists have indicated that the trade has been growing in nearby countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Despite Ivory trade and elephant hunting being banned in the country in 1973 and Kenya being one of the African countries that was pushing for a total ban on ivory in a convention of signatory nations to the UN Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) in 2016,Kenya has been an active player in Ivory trade in the world.

The port of Mombasa and the Jomo Kenyatta international airport have been long named as major transit points for illegal ivory from Africa to Asian markets.

In 2016 Vietnam custom officials seized Ivory nearing a tonne hidden in a Timber consignment from Kenya while in the previous year nearly 3 tonnes of Ivory hidden in a consignment of tea from Kenya that was destined for Laos had been confiscated in a port in Thailand.

However Mike says the biggest threat to elephants and wildlife in Africa remains loss of habitat.