Liu Fenghai, 48, is a craftsman in Harbin, a northern city of China. It is common for him to buy raw ivory and made them into the pendants, paperweights and statues. But now Liu has to give up this ancient art that has been carried on for thousands of years, as a result of China’s ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017.
“It’s a game changer and could be the pivotal turning point that brings elephants back from the brink of extinction,” Elly Pepper, deputy director of wildlife trade for the Natural Resources Defense Council said to the BBC.
The Chinese market is one of the world’s largest domestic markets for elephant ivory. It is believed that the legal ivory trade caused the elephant poaching in Africa, which puts the elephant in complete annihilation, with estimates suggesting there are fewer than half a million left in Africa, BBC reported.
Ivory art in China accounted for up to 70% of the global demand for ivory from ornaments, jewelry, piano keys and billiard balls, according to the BBC.
But ivory artists said they are not to be blamed, as they don’t need a lot of tusks to do the ivory art. “Those from elephants’ natural deaths are more than enough for our creative works because each piece takes months, sometimes years, to finish.” Zhang Minhui, a leader in the ivory carving community told the Guardian.
Many conservationists, on the other hand, argue that any legal market for ivory encourages and facilitates poaching by providing cover for the trade in trafficked tusks.
Now, with China’s ban, many people hoped that the elephants in Africa can be saved.
But there are still big questions remain. As in other markets, like the UK, the Chinese announcement appears to allow for the continued trading of antiques, which campaigners fear may act as a loophole.
Experts believed that elephants can only be saved when there is a shift in the attitude of consumers around the world where the demand remains high, BBC reported.