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China, U.S. Agree to Halt Ivory Trade

  • Friday, September 25, 2015
  • Washington, D.C.
African elephant family

Africa's elephants need the support of China and the United States to end the poaching crisis and ensure their survival. Photo credit: Billy Dodson

U.S. President Barack Obama and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping have announced a commitment to “take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory” in their respective countries, according to a fact sheet released by the White House at the close of President Xi’s State visit.

The two presidents, acknowledging the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, have agreed to cooperate in bringing additional training, technical expertise, information sharing and public awareness to the poaching and wildlife trafficking crisis. The announcement comes at a time when as many as 35,000 elephants are poached every year for their tusks to supply the ivory market in China, the United States and other countries. 

“We are seeing an important, public commitment from the world’s two largest economies to work together to bring an end to the elephant poaching crisis,” says Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO and member of the White House Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. “President Obama and President Xi are sending a clear message that they intend to throw the weight of their countries behind the elephant crisis.”

China and the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong are home to the largest ivory market in the world. An estimated 90 percent of ivory for sale in China and Hong Kong is reportedly illegal, with the legal trade helping to disguise the illicit industry. The legal trade further complicates law enforcement efforts to crack down on the black market. The United States is one of the world’s largest wildlife markets, and until recently domestic ivory trade was legal. The U.S. government has now enacted a near-total ban on the interstate trade and commercial import of ivory, and a number of U.S. states have banned or are working to ban intrastate trade of ivory in their states. 

The announcement by Presidents Obama and Xi to deepen their cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking was confirmed in a section of a White House fact sheet released on September 25, shown here:

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. 

“If these commitments translate into meaningful cooperation and action by these geopolitical giants on tackling poaching and wildlife trafficking, the future will be bright for Africa’s giants,” says AWF’s Bergin.

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