EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written by Tom Phillips for The Telegraph
China has announced a one-year ban on the import of ivory carvings amid mounting criticism over the country’s role in the annual slaughter of thousands of African elephants.
The move comes days before Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is expected to raise the plight of African elephants during a tour of China and follows recent calls from Sir David Attenborough and other conservationists for a total ban on China’s domestic ivory trade.
The ban was announced on the website of China’s State Administration of Forestry on Thursday. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said authorities would evaluate the temporary ban’s impact on the killing of elephants in Africa, which last year reached “critically high levels”, according to the United Nations.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is known for his wildlife activism, is likely to highlight the dismal situation facing Africa’s dwindling elephant populations during a three-day trip to China next week.
On Wednesday the Duke will travel to Xishuangbanna in China’s southwest province of Yunnan to visit an elephant rehabilitation centre. The region has been the focus of major government efforts to protect Asian wild elephants in recent years and their work has received praise for reducing poaching and helping elephant populations recover.
However, China has faced severe criticism for the role the country’s thirst for ivory plays in the annual slaughter of thousands of elephants outside its borders.
Xi Jinping needed to completely ban China’s domestic ivory trade in order to help halt the killings of African elephants, Sir David Attenborough and a group of campaigners said earlier this month in an open letter to China’s president. “Unless urgent actions are taken by the international community, and China in particular, to stop this demand, the killing of elephants will continue unabated and could lead to their extinction in much of their range areas within a short time – possibly as little as 10 years,” they wrote.
Thursday’s announcement of a one-year ban on the import of ivory carvings falls well short of those demands.
The moratorium was “window dressing,” the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency said, according to Associated Press. “It is unfortunate that [Beijing has] not announced a much-needed policy change by banning all domestic trade in ivory — this is the policy change that could actually make a difference for elephants in Africa,” Shruti Suresh, wildlife campaigner from the group, was quoted as saying.
The Duke of Cambridge has emerged as a major champion of the campaign to save Africa’s elephants, more than 32 000 of which were killed illegally in 2012, according to the UN. He was praised by wildlife activists last February following claims he wished to destroy all of the ivory kept in Buckingham Palace, in a symbolic act designed to highlight his opposition to the trade.