China, Ivory, Trade… The problem

13 Feb



A picture of seized smuggled Ivory in China in its attempt to crack down on its illegal trade.




Ivory is a rare, hard, white material derived from the tusks and teeth of animals, often used in manufacturing and art. Examples of it use would be the keys of a piano. It has long been established that the trade of elephant tusks (Ivory as they are known) are a serious and damaging problem that has engulfed the world for hundreds of years due to the ways Ivory is attained. In the past century the trade of Ivory has been become increasing more problematic due to the overall increase in pouching at an exponential rate to attain the material. This is due to the increase in popularity for the rarity among the rich as well as those seeking it for its possible future value. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) secured an agreement in 1989 among its member states to ban the international trade in ivory. This ban is international however is often disrespected and ignored in many countries, especially Africa.


In more recent years, China (with its huge population) has sparked a surge in the popularity of Ivory amongst its people. The reasons for this surge in popularity is uncertain however reasons often stated for the buying of Ivory is its possible future value due to the fact elephants are becoming more and more rare as well as Ivories artistic prowess once sculpted. China is trying to tackle the illegal trade of Ivory as best it can. At present the sale of Ivory is legal as long as it is from the government’s stock pile of Ivory. This is often not the case. A mini documentary by the BBC explained the trade of supposed legal but most probably illegal Ivory in shops in China.


In this documentary we see a man walk into an unnamed shop in China fitted with a hidden camera. For Ivory to be sold he states that the piece being sold must be accompanied with a credit card sized ID with a picture of the piece. This ensures and thus proves that the piece is from the government’s own stock pile and not smuggled. On close inspection in the ID’s and the pieces it is clear to the man filming these pieces and the audience of the documentary that the piece doesn’t match the photo, therefore making it possible smuggled. This is a problem apparent in many shops in China that sell Ivory however China does have around 150 legal, government-licensed ivory shops. In these shops the sale of Ivory is perfectly legal as it is from stock. The governments take on Ivory sale is that is is an ancient art that it wants to keep alive as long as it’s done legally.



  1. The Internation ban on Ivory sales and its effect on elephant poaching on Africa ByAndrew M. Lemieux and Ronald V. Clarke (The Abstract)
  2. (Ivory & Ivory Trade as searches)
  3. (China’s Illegal Ivory Sale)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: