Ivory is a precious commodity in China. Some wealthy residents think that owning ivory makes them appear more successful. Others say that ivory brings them luck. Ivory is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. Historically, China has been one of the largest markets for ivory, and experts say that up to 70 percent of the illegal ivory from 30,000 annual elephant deaths end up there. But there’s hope for the gentle giants: On the last day of 2017, China made the entire commercial ivory trade illegal, closing 172 factories and shops throughout the year.
A big day for the elephants:
- From 2007 to 2014, a census of African elephants revealed that their numbers had dropped by nearly a third -- a decline of about 144,000 animals in just seven years.
- The international ivory trade has been banned since 1989, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). China continued to allow the sale of ivory products crafted before 1975, and many poachers have passed off newer ivory as antiques.
- "Decades from now, we may point back to this as one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation,” the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement.