China has imposed a one-year moratorium on the import of ivory carvings in an apparent bid to counter international criticism that Chinese demand is decimating elephant populations in Africa.
The State Forestry Administration, which oversees the country’s wildlife trade, published a notice of the temporary ban on its website on Thursday, the New York Times reported.
But conservationists said the moratorium would do little to slow the surge in poaching that has killed 100,000 African elephants in three years, the newspaper said, citing a study published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The ban only pertains to the import of ivory carvings, and will not affect legal domestic ivory trade, which has pushed up the price of ivory and provided cover for the smuggling of ivory into licensed carving factories and stores.
“It’s just window dressing,” said Shruti Suresh, a campaigner with the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency.
Suresh said the temporary ban will only stimulate the desire for ivory among rich Chinese, encourage smuggling, and result in more killings of the endangered species.
Illegal ivory trade has surged since the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or Cites, allowed China to buy 68 tons of African ivory in 2008.
Chinese officials have argued that a legal domestic trade in ivory would help save elephants by flooding the market with approved inventory, thus undercutting poachers.
Instead, the slaughter has expanded as the price of ivory in China tripled in just four years from 2010, the newspaper said, citing a report from the organization Save the Elephants.
Conservations believe that extinction of the species is possible because of rampant poaching. At least 104 tons of ivory were seized globally between 2011 and 2013, equivalent to 15,522 dead elephants, according to the Environmental Investigation Organization.
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