NCEAS Product 25159

Yu, Yang; Wetzler, Andrew E.; Yang, Xuan; Tang, Ruchun; Zhang, Li (Aster). 2016. Significant and timely ivory trade restrictions in both China and the United States are critical to save elephants. Conservation Letters. (Abstract)

Abstract

The United States and China have committed to enact “nearly complete bans” on the import and export of elephant ivory, including putting in place significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and taking swift steps to halt their domestic ivory trade. Unlike the United States, China has to move forward on its commitment to further restrict its domestic commercial trade. This is primarily due to China's existing certificated ivory manufacturers and retailers who own huge legal ivory stockpiles. We propose that the Chinese government use its eco-compensation funds to purchase back all legal ivory from the market. This “decommodification” could help save the elephant population worldwide. Alternatively, China could enact a domestic ban with a short phase-in period (a similar approach has been adopted by several U.S. States) to allow legal ivory merchants to sell their stockpiles. A hybrid of these two approaches could also be considered.