The State Council of China, the country’s main governing body, has released a four-part plan to close its legal ivory market by the end of 2017. Officials said that these actions should strengthen the protection of current ivory and combat illegal trade.
The first part calls for a complete stop of commercial processing and sales of ivory and ivory products by December 31, 2017. Acknowledging the intertwined relationship of ivory with art and culture, the second part ensures that individuals dependent on ivory carving skills receive transitional assistance to a new livelihood.
The third action suggests strict regulation of current, legal ivory collections as they continue to be on display in art collections and museums. To discourage the market from relocating underground, the final part calls for increased law enforcement, education and publicity.
Despite these efforts, China’s stance may prove as futile as Kenya’s choice to burn ivory. In 1989, when African elephants became a protected species, Kenya burned its ivory as a symbol of the commitment to conservation. Since then, 20 countries have participated in ivory burns for a total of over 240,000 kg destroyed.
As another option, some African nations petitioned for CITES to allow a one-time sale of their ivory stockpiles, which occurred in 1997 at an average of $100 per kilogram and in 2008 at $140 per kilogram. To compare, ivory sold for $2,200 per kilogram on the black market in 2014. These monetary gains from the black market will continue to be a motivation for poaching.