Elephants, hippos, warthogs, walruses, and other mammals have reasons to rejoice in late March 2017. It has only been three months since the People’s Republic of China abandoned its legal trade in ivory, and African conservation groups are already celebrating great news. According to Kenyan newspaper The Star, activists and attorneys representing Save the Elephants issued a new report entitled “Decline in the Legal Ivory Trade in China.” Although the report was compiled a year ahead of the official ban, the figures are very promising. Researchers who visited six major Chinese cities where ivory used to be traded found that prices had plummeted by as much as 65 percent.
How The Ivory Trade Works
The conclusions offered by Save the Elephants officials, who gathered in Nairobi to discuss their findings, offer a glimpse into a fascinating and corrupt economic activity. Chinese ivory traders could have skirted the law in anticipation of the ban, but the macroeconomic slowdown sweeping across China has been kind on the elephants. Here’s how the situation works:
Since the Chinese economy is no longer generating piles upon piles of money, luxury goods, and ivory pieces are not being purchased at such a feverish pace. In the past, ivory was a common “currency” for bribing officials, because it was easy to move in the black markets and less conspicuous than suitcases filled with cash. Besides, ivory is considered a status material associated with luck and prosperity in China. With ivory being banned amidst an economic slowdown, and corruption being targeted by the government, shadowy party officials are not about to take risks, which explains why even the value of black market ivory is plunging.
Retail ivory pieces can still be found in China, but the central government is giving merchants until the end of 2017 to move their inventory. Should there be retail pressure to liquidate ivory, prices could come down even further. From 2014 until now, ivory prices have fallen from $2,100 to $730 per kilogram. Although the reality of elephant poaching to feed the black market ivory trade still looms, conservationists are welcoming the position being taken by China—a country that wants to improve its relations with Africa, Europe, and the Americas.