Illegal ivory trading in China is proving to have detrimental consequences to wildlife, 5000 miles away in Africa. It is estimated that within the next few years, elephants could be wiped out from certain areas of Africa due to this barbaric business. China’s desire to consume and grow its economy has led to the creation of an illegal, almost underground ivory trading operation. Although ivory is sold openly and legally, behind this legal trade lays a much more illegitimate one. This poaching and smuggling cycle is what is making this trading so profitable, and it is animals such as elephants and rhinos that are suffering the most.
In China, it is legal to sell ivory provided that the retailer displays the carving with a credit card sized photo ID, proving its source is from government stock piles and not from smuggling. However, some reports show that the ID and the carvings do not match.
It is suggested that these Chinese consumers desire the possession of ivory as a symbol of wealth and good luck, and more crudely as a source of investment. As the number of elephants and rhinos diminishes, the price of ivory increases tremendously, forcing this already illegal practise to become even more favourable for smugglers.
China is however taking small steps to try and cease this practice. In Hong Kong, a leading trade location for ivory, conservation groups have urged the incineration of 28 tonnes of confiscated ivory, a process estimated to take over two years. Such a procedure is thought to discourage further the smuggling and trading of ivory. Moreover, in January 2014, Chinese customs officers seized and publicly crushed six tonnes of illegal ivory in order to raise public awareness that such a practise still exists.
This has however opened up new ways of buying and selling. Although supposedly illegal, the online selling of ivory is not hard to come by but with it becoming harder to smuggle, the price is being driven up with a disproportionate amount of collectors to the amount of available ivory. This does beg the question of whether such a practise will ever be eradicated as it seems that however one polices it, certain individuals will find a way to cheat the system.