Saturday, February 23, 2013

Strict Measurements Refrain Illegal Ivory Trade in China

Seized elephant tusks in Hong Kong

Experts have recently stated that China's tough management and registration system can strongly prevent ivory from entering the domestic market. Jin Yu, a researcher from the Northeast Forestry University, stated that the nation has initiated an information control system tougher than the ideals of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Jin described it as an identification system, where there is an identification card on every product that contains information regarding the product's appearance, size, and digital code. This card can be used to acquire further information about that product, including its original material, through an online database. She further added that the registration system keeps track of ivory until it is made into a product, and reviews each period of development for weight gain. This identification system was first introduced in 2003, and has tremendously helped the customs, police, and other law enforcement officials constrain the illegal ivory trade. However, Jin also warned that lack of experience and knowledge may cause incorrect reports and surveys that may result in accusations that the market has ivory products coming from illegal sources.

Furthermore, all factories manufacturing ivory products and stores selling them are registered. According to Yan Xun, an official with the State Forestry Administration, it is only with the government's online approval can such factories and stores be in business. Those that are without the approval can be punished. He further added that the administration has discovered that Chinese tourists traveling to Africa often purchase ivory ornaments and simply carry them back to their home country, not knowing that they are breaking the law. In response, Chinese embassies in African countries are becoming involved by warning tourists not to bring ivory products back. In addition, local wildlife management authorities have also taken the initiative to combat wildlife crime with the rise of e-commerce. Yan also stated that China's restrictive penalties for the illegal ivory trade have averted perpetrators with life imprisonment being the highest sentence.

I'm very impressed and proud to see what China is doing in its efforts to combat the illegal ivory trade. This article contains information indicating a stark contrast of China being the driving force of the trade. For example, a survey in 2011 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that collaborative efforts by the government and heavy progress have been made to employ the registration system on ivory products and raise public awareness over the past five years. In addition, the report also stated that China attained progress in controlling wildlife crimes online by educating the online industry and urging it to include wildlife into the online trade policies. In 2005, China's largest online marketplace Taobao banned listings of ivory and employed the ban by education and disclosure of code words to remove ivory listings. Another website that traded in ivory,, has also eliminated the section of ivory trading and implemented notices of the wildlife trade ban throughout the site. In addition to banning the illegal wildlife trade online, China has also taken a firm stand against wildlife crimes in recent years. A recent example was seen from January 6 to February 5, 2013 in which China led an operation codenamed "Cobra" which included 22 African and Asian countries. The operation exposed more than 200 cases involving trafficked wildlife parts, and resulted in arrests of more than hundred suspects. It also confiscated 6.5 metric tons of ivory, 1.6 tons of shahtoosh, 22 rhino horns, ten tiger skins, and other protected plant and animal species and products derived from them. This goes to show that global partnership, especially amongst countries hit hard by poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, always helps in an effort to combat and curb such crimes against wildlife. I also hope that this joint effort will continue to help in the future for the benefit of the world's wildlife.

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