100,000 elephants were killed by poachers from 2012-2014.
Photo via (cc) Flickr user Jerome Starkey
The rising tide of anti-poaching sentiment in China has had a major effect on the price of illegal ivory, causing it to drop 50 percent in the past 18 months. According to wildlife group Save the Elephants, in 2012 less than half of China’s population found that the ivory trade to be a problem, but that number has risen to 71 percent. As China’s economy has expanded and the number of wealthy people has grown, the price of ivory shot up to $2,100 per kilogram, but recent awareness campaigns by the Chinese government have caused it to drop to just $1,1000.
For years, ivory has been seen a signifier of wealth in China, fueling elephant poachers in Africa. According to WildAid CEO Peter Knights, “The ivory price collapse in China is much-needed good news for Africa’s elephants,” and the change is the difference between, “the light at the end of the tunnel and extinction.” Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, told The Washington Post, “We understand some ivory had been bought by speculators who may have been counting on the elephant being severely diminished or even going extinct,” he said. “So they would be sitting on a pile of ivory they could profit from. If President Xi has said all of this is going to be illegal anyway, suddenly they may have taken a very bad risk.”
This sea change in public opinion is due in part to China’s President Xi Jinping signing a partnership with President Obama to ban ivory sales. China’s state government also gave $42 million in free TV airtime to WildAid, an organization that works to battle the trading of elephant tusks, shark fins, and rhino horns. The ads starred Chinese basketball mega star Yao Ming as well as Britain’s Prince William and soccer legend David Beckham
(H/T The Washington Post)