WASHINGTON (Sept. 25, 2015) — In a historic accord to save Africa’s elephants from rempant poaching, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to ban ivory sales in the United States and China.
The announcement marks the first public commitment by President Xi to end ivory sales in China, the world’s largest market, and follows a pledge made by Chinese officials in May to phase out the domestic trade. It also puts heavy pressure on Hong Kong, a global hub for commercial ivory, to ban its legal trade — one that has provided cover for smuggling and illicit sales of ivory from African elephants poached in recent years.
A White House fact sheet released Friday confirms the agreement, full text below:
Wildlife Trafficking: The United States and China, recognizing the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, commit to take positive measures to address this global challenge. The United States and China commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory. The two sides decided to further cooperate in joint training, technical exchanges, information sharing, and public education on combating wildlife trafficking, and enhance international law enforcement cooperation in this field. The United States and China decided to cooperate with other nations in a comprehensive effort to combat wildlife trafficking.
On his first-ever visit to Vietnam, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson recently met with some of the nation’s top business leaders as part of our Stop Using Rhino Horn campaign, which seeks to counter myths of rhino horn’s medicinal benefits as well as to educate the Vietnamese public about the poaching crisis in Africa.
In Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Branson hosted an intimate dinner organized by several non-governmental organizations including WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society and CHANGE, and in collaboration with Virgin Unite, Nhip Cau Dau Tu magazine and The Reverie Saigon. During the event, business leaders signed a pledge in which they committed to never buy, use or gift rhino horn.
The signed pledge reads as follows:
We hereby pledge:
1. To lead by example in developing sustainable and socially responsible business practices.
2. Not to purchase, possess or give as gifts any illegal wildlife products, such as rhino horn.
3. To encourage friends, family and employees never to purchase any illegal wildlife products.
4. To support efforts to conserve Vietnam's rich natural heritage and protect wildlife.
Since its founding in 2010, World Rhino Day has been an international cri de coeur for a beloved animal under assault because of consumer demand for its horn. As of August 27, 749 Southern White Rhinos had been poached for their horns this year in South Africa, home to the vast majority of the world’s remaining rhinos. Compare this with the same date a year ago, when a total of 716 had been poached.
Behind South Africa’s rhino-poaching epidemic lies a single, simple thing: the extremely high price some people will pay for rhino horn in Asia. The large amounts of cash handed over in shops and back alleys in Vietnam and China in exchange for small bags of rhino-horn powder, tiny trinkets, necklaces and bracelets — and sometimes whole horns — supports a transnational network of crime that excels at evading controls.
The money buys off Asian customs officials, police and airline staff. It pays for the transport costs of middlemen and mules, who risk arrest carrying horn into Asia from Africa. It covers losses when horn is occasionally confiscated en route. It enriches corrupt African politicians and crime bosses who provide weapons, vehicles and operating expenses for crews of poachers, bribes to court officials to make inconvenient evidence disappear and fees for good lawyers and hitmen. It provides an incentive more powerful than the fear of death to the squads of triggermen who regularly enter rhino reserves despite the presence of armed rangers, police and military units.
It's been a long road for AB 96, a bill to ban the ivory and rhino horn trade in California — but we're almost there.
On Tuesday, Sen. Ricardo Lara brought AB 96 to a floor vote in the state senate, where the legislation quickly passed, 26-13. The bill now needs a concurrence vote from the assembly before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. We are thankful for the leadership of bill author Speaker Toni Atkins as well as Senator Lara, and we urge a swift passage.
For decades, criminals have used the legal trade of ivory imported prior to 1977 in order to launder illegal ivory from Africa, where 33,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year. A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that an overwhelming amount of ivory sold in major markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles is likely illegal.
In a significant show of support for Africa's elephants, Thailand officials crushed over two tons of confiscated ivory on Wednesday, including tusks, carvings and trinkets that were pulverized with a hammer mill and later incinerated.
The nation's first-ever ivory destruction ceremony began with Buddhist and Brahmin faith leaders praying for at least 200 elephants that had been slaughtered for their ivory that was destroyed. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who presided over the ceremony, said the crush would not be a one-off event, and that Thailand is committed to fighting the illegal wildlife trade.
"The destruction of confiscated ivory in Bangkok will not in itself put an end to the illegal trade," CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon said in a statement. "It is, however, ensuring that no one will ever profit from this contraband. When coupled with seizures, prosecution and conviction of offenders, it sends a powerful message that Thailand does not and will not tolerate this illegal trade."
WWF Thailand and Freeland were involved in auditing the ivory stockpile as well as overseeing the destruction process. "This event aligns the commitment of the Thai government and the will of Thai people with the global priority of stopping the illegal ivory trade," said WWF’s Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, who participated in the audit.