US Person begins his eleventh year writing at PNG with some good news. The world's largest market for illegal ivory, China, has finally agreed to ban all ivory sale and processing. He hopes this belated recognition by Chinese officials that ivory poaching is an existential threat to the African elephant is not too late for the Earth's largest land mammal to escape the tragic fate of extinction. Some estimates put the China's share of the world ivory market at 70%. The price of a kilo of ivory can reach $2100, its peak in 2014, more than enough motivation for organized criminals to slaughter the remaining elephants in the wild. The current price has dropped to between $450 and $900.Understandably conservationists welcomed China's announcement, and praised its leadership on stopping the tragic slaughter. CITIES banned world trade of ivory in 1989 after poaching eliminated half of Africa's wild elephant herds. "One-time sales" of stockpiled illegal ivory and burgeoning domestic trade in Asia allowed poached ivory to be laundered. The main reason Zimbabwe was recently denied permission to sell its stockpile by CITIES.
The complete ban is to be in place before the end of this year. According to China's official news agency, the ban will close some 143 trading venues and 34 processing centers. Of course, the effectiveness of this political decision is in the hands of law enforcement inside and outside of China's borders. China has a very mixed record of enforcing wildlife trafficking laws. However, China surprised delegates attending the CITIES conference in October with its backing for a world-wide ban on ivory trading. The recent Great Elephant Census shows that wild populations across Africa have been further reduced by a third in the last seven years. It is now estimated 352,271 African savannah elephants are still alive. Every one single one deserves human protection; not one was born to loose. Japan along with Hong Kong remain the last major markets for poached ivory in Asia, and pressure to follow China's lead is being assiduously applied.