On December 30, China announced that ivory sales would be banned by the end of 2017. As the largest consumer of ivory, this news is welcomed by wildlife advocates who believe it will put poachers out of business. The ban will start with the shuttering of legal ivory processing factories by March 31st. The Chinese government will transition legal ivory to museums and help affected workers find other jobs. Collectors of legal ivory products may keep what they already have and obtain government approval for sales.
Researchers estimate that over 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last 10 years for ivory. Poachers have taken advantage of the strife and corruption in central Africa. Rebels sell the tusks to raise money to buy weapons. “Like blood diamonds in West Africa in the late 1990s, ivory has become Africa’s new conflict resource,” write Edward Wong and Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times. Ending the trade of ivory may save human lives as well as elephants.
African elephants are divided into two subspecies, savanna and forest. They live in herds led by the most dominant female called the matriarch. Babies or calves are born after a 22 month gestation and are cared for by the entire herd. Males leave the herd at 12 to 15 years of age. They may join a bachelor group or remain solitary. Elephants are vegetarians that consume grass, leaves, bark and roots. An adult eats 300 to 400 pounds a day. Elephants are extremely intelligent with good memories. The females form strong social bonds with their relatives. Scientists have documented many human emotions in these magnificent creatures including anger, grief and joy.
Thank you to Yao Ming and countless conservation groups who worked tirelessly on the behalf of elephants. Since retiring from professional basketball, Mr. Ming has advocated for sharks, rhinos and elephants by denouncing shark fin soup, rhino horn medical remedies and ivory carvings.
-‘Basic Facts About Elephants’ Defenders of Wildlife, Elephant Fact Sheet, www.defendersofwildlife.org.
-Wong, Edward and Gettleman, Jeffrey. ‘China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching.’ New York Times Asia Pacific division, Dec. 30, 2016.