In a historic accord to save Africa’s elephants from out-of-control poaching, President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to end commercial ivory sales in the United States and China.
The announcement marks the first public commitment by President Xi to end ivory sales in China, the world’s largest market, and follows a pledge made by Chinese officials in May to phase out the domestic trade. It also puts heavy pressure on Hong Kong, a global hub for commercial ivory, to ban its legal trade — one that has provided cover for smuggling and illicit sales of ivory from African elephants poached in recent years.
A White House fact sheet released Friday confirms the agreement, full text below:
Wildlife Trafficking: The United States and China, recognizing the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, commit to take positive measures to address this global challenge. The United States and China commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory. The two sides decided to further cooperate in joint training, technical exchanges, information sharing, and public education on combating wildlife trafficking, and enhance international law enforcement cooperation in this field. The United States and China decided to cooperate with other nations in a comprehensive effort to combat wildlife trafficking.
“Today’s announcement is the greatest single step that could be taken to reduce poaching for elephants. Legal ivory trade has always been used as a cover to launder poached ivory, and when it was authorized by the previous administration in China in 2009, poaching escalated dramatically in Africa,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.
m”The Chinese government has supported our ivory demand reduction campaign, led by Yao Ming and Li Bingbing, and has provided support for conservation efforts in Tanzania and other African countries. We thank both Presidents for their personal support for elephant conservation and call upon Hong Kong to join China and the US in consigning the ivory trade to the trash can of history.”
The good news: An ivory sales ban has wide support among the Chinese people. A March 2015 survey by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save The Elephants in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou found that 95% of respondents said that the government should impose an ivory sales ban, and that awareness of ivory poaching had increased by 50% since 2012.