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African wildlife agency lauds China's ban on ivory imports

Updated: 2015-03-01 09:42

NAIROBI - African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) on Saturday welcomed a move by Chinese government to impose a one-year ban on imports of African ivory carvings.

AWF CEO Patrick Bergin said in a statement released in Nairobi that they "welcome this positive step", and calls on China to consider an outright ban on all ivory trade in the country.

China's State Forestry Administration on Thursday announced a one-year ban on ivory imports in an effort to protect African elephants.

The Administration announced it would not handle any ivory import requests for the next year and further warned Chinese citizens not to bring back ivory from abroad.

Conservationists say rising demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia has caused a poaching crisis in recent years across Kenya, in particular, and Africa as a whole, with over 1,000 rhinos having been killed in Africa in the last two years.

Kenya has the fourth largest elephant population in the world but poaching, environmental pressures and human activities have threatened the survival of the mammal.

According to wildlife organizations, ivory, rhino horns, reptiles, pangolins, and sandal wood are some of the wildlife and wildlife products being poached and trafficked in international black markets.

Before Thursday's ban, Chinese travelers returning from Africa with ivory trinkets or carvings could apply for a permit to bring the ivory into the country legally.

The State Forestry Administration said it will now no longer issue permits to import ivory products. This also includes ivory trinkets purchased in countries outside of Africa.

AWF and its partners WildAid and Save The Elephants have been targeting many of the same ivory consumers through a widespread public awareness campaign and via targeted public service announcements (PSAs).

The PSAs feature celebrities such as former NBA star Yao Ming and Chinese film icon Li Bingbing, who disseminate the message that when the buying stops, the killing can too.

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