Each year roughly 30,000 African elephants are poached, and many of those deaths have served to provide ivory for the world’s largest market: China.
But starting tomorrow, the sale of almost all ivory will be illegal in China. Ivory carvers and sellers will be permanently closed for business. According to National Geographic, a large-scale public education campaign will also work to inform Chinese citizens that harvesting ivory requires that elephants be killed. A 2007 survey found that 70 percent of Chinese didn’t know ivory harvesting killed elephants.
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Hunting elephants is illegal across much of Africa, and importing ivory has been outlawed worldwide for nearly three decades, but illegal poaching continues on a large scale. According to NatGeo, that has been attributed to a one-time 2008 purchase of legal ivory for China and Japan’s domestic markets. Research has since shown that supply provided cover for a sharp rise in the flow of illegal ivory.
Representatives of international conservation groups have praised the ban, which was negotiated bilaterally with the United States in 2015. Though ivory is a status symbol for some wealthy Chinese, a survey by the World Wildlife Fund found that 86 percent of Chinese people supported the ban.