Elephant conservationists hopeful that demand for ivory in China is falling amid government clampdown on ivory sellers, but experts remain wary of poaching
Thursday 30 March 2017 11.41 BST Last modified on Thursday 30 March 2017 12.18 BST
The wholesale price of raw legal ivory has dropped by almost two thirds since China, the world’s largest ivory importer and trader, announced plans to close down its domestic market, according to new research.
Researchers working for the conservation organisation Save the Elephants visited Beijing and Shanghai, as well as six cities whose markets had never been surveyed before: Changzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenyang, Suzhou and Tianjin. The researchers, Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin, concluded that the legal trade in ivory is dying.
In early 2014, the average wholesale price of tusks was $2,100 (£1,700) per kg, the researchers found. By late 2015, just months after China symbolically burned half a ton of stockpiled ivory and announced plans to end the domestic trade, the price had fallen to $1,100 per kg. By February 2017 it had reached just $730 per kg.
The research team also found that many retail shops were closed or closing with vendors trying to offload stocks. The legal shops have been sitting on old stocks of worked ivory trying to sell items for the same prices to recoup the high costs of purchasing raw ivory.
Some conservationists have welcomed the latest findings.
“We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants. “There is now greater hope for the species.”