Call to ban ivory give and take

Updated: 2014-04-05 07:57

By Yang Yao (China Daily)

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National political advisors have urged the government to take immediate measures to curtail the consumption and demand of endangered wildlife products.

Yuan Xikun, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said he had submitted a proposal to the advisory body in early March, demanding that civil servants be prohibited from giving and receiving ivory.

"Building on the joint decree by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council to ban dishes containing shark fin, birds' nests and protected wild animals at official receptions and banquets, in an effort to root out corruption and condemn decadent consumption, we urge a special decree prohibiting the lavish taking and giving of parts and products from endangered species by government officials and civil servants," Yuan's proposal reads.

As a sculptor, environmentalist and United Nations Environment Programme ambassador, Yuan's proposal expressed his special interest in one area in particular.

"Recall an ivory carving China presented to the UN and displayed at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and replace it with a sculpture that demonstrates China's commitment to the protection of endangered wildlife and the world's natural heritage."

In addition to calling for the prohibition of government officials giving or receiving gifts made from endangered species, Yuan's proposal urges maintaining and enforcing an administrative ban on the auction of endangered species, suggesting instead the destruction of the entire stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory and the ultimate phasing out of the domestic ivory trade.

Yuan's proposal follows a similar petition to the CPPCC by former basketball superstar Yao Ming who has asked for a ban on ivory sales in China.

"Expensive ivory products are always used as bribes," Yao said. "They are an important feature of the extravagance and corruption in China."

Last year, the government banned the serving of shark fin and bird nest soups and other wild animal products at official banquets and, in January, China destroyed 6.1 metric tons of confiscate ivory. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has announced it will incinerate 30 tons of stockpiled illegal ivory in the next two years.

If the proposals by Yuan and Yao are adopted, it would represent a monumental step forward, said Zhang Qi, an officer with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Call to ban ivory give and take

"We know that we can shed light on the darkness of ignorance," she said.

Zhang believes that once Chinese consumers understand that 90 percent of elephants are killed for their ivory, they will support a sales ban.

Her organization's campaign "Mom, I have teeth" has lessened demand for the product from the segments of the population most likely to buy it from 54 percent to 26 percent, she said.

President Xi Jinping's government austerity drive has already led to a drop in sales of luxury watches, expensive liquor and other extravagant "gifts" commonly used to court favor in both the business and political arena.

The public looks to its leaders for guidance and role models and the government should consider making any purchase of ivory illegal, according to a recent IFAW-commissioned survey by Rapid Asia, a social development organization.

A WildAid survey echoed the same sentiments, with 94 percent of the Chinese public supporting a total government ban on the ivory trade.

"Ignorance, indifference and greed are three key drivers of demand for parts and products of endangered species" said John Scanlon, secretary-general of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, in February in London, where leaders from 46 countries gathered to pledge their support to fight wildlife poaching, trafficking and demand.

 Call to ban ivory give and take

The central government destroyed 6.1 metric tons of confiscated ivory in Dongguan, Guangdong province on Jan 6. It's the country's first public destruction of ivory, showing the government's determination to combat the illegal trade in wildlife. Yang Bo / for China Daily

 Call to ban ivory give and take

Ivory products confiscated by police in Yunnan province during a crackdown on the smuggling and trafficking of protected wildlife products in January. Zhai Jian / for China Daily

(China Daily 04/05/2014 page8)