Kenya has welcomed China’s banning of processing and sale of ivory products by end of next year.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) chairman Richard Leakey said the pledge is historic and would boost efforts to save African elephants from poaching.
“I was pleased to learn that China’s action would be a blow to the ivory trade and I hope that other nations will follow China’s example,” Mr Leakey was quoted last week in a media report by Xinhua news agency.
“The ban is a positive gesture that reinforces the urgency of saving the rest of the elephant herd.” Kenya, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, last August spearheaded demands for a total ban on trade in ivory to end the “murderous” trafficking and prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.
On December 30, the Chinese government announced that it would eliminate processing and sale of ivory by the end of 2017.
China will shut down domestic ivory carving workshops and factories by April.
It will phase out registered traders and processors by the end of 2017. A notice by the powerful State Council said the move would “strengthen the protection of elephants and crack down on the illegal ivory trade.”
The council urged law enforcement officials to take a tougher stance on the sale, transport and smuggling of ivory.
Mr Leakey said China’s historic ban on trade in ivory products had inspired the international community at a time of heightened efforts to stop the loss of African elephants due to poaching and climate stress.
He said the closure of the ivory market in many parts of the world would be a fatal blow to poaching the giants. Trade in ivory was banned internationally in 1989, but a loophole allowed southern African countries to hold occasional legal sales of their ivory stockpiles.
In 2008, China was given permission by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international body that regulates the trade in wildlife, to buy ivory legally from several southern African countries.
The move, which was supposed to reduce elephant poaching, was instead followed by a boom.
Analysts say legal ivory markets often act as a cover for poached ivory, citing the problems determining which ivory is legal and which is illegally trafficked.