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In May, we applauded China’s continued commitment to ending the ivory trade. However, in October, the Chinese government announced that it is relaxing the decades-old ban by allowing products made from rhinos and tigers to be traded under “special circumstances.” Although Chinese authorities claim they will regulate and strictly control legal trade for medicinal or antique trading purposes, conservation leaders worry this decision will allow unregulated, illegal trade to go unchecked.
When the original ban was implemented in 1993, China was hailed as a leader in the protection of endangered animals. Since 1993, many countries have joined China by implementing similar bans, while others, like the United States, have been criticized for impeding the progress of the global conservation effort. In 2017, China re-committed to ending its domestic ivory trade, making the end of the global ivory trade a reality closer than ever before as intention to buy ivory in China dropped by almost half and 90% of consumers reported support for the ban.
These previous announcements and commitments by the world’s leading exporter of ivory make the relaxing of the ban even more disappointing, especially because it did not mention regulations for farming of tigers and rhinos. Fortunately, the statement did encourage all levels of government to advocate for the protection of tigers and rhinos, support boycotts of illegal purchases, and prevent the sale of products currently in personal collections. But the conservation community fears these protections won’t be enough.
Chinese officials justify the relaxed regulations by citing a need for rhino horns and tiger bones in traditional medicinal and healing treatments. However, these claims are not supported by substantial scientific evidence, so the value of these ingredients is questionable, especially if smugglers and poachers will be able to hide illicit purchases behind legalized trade. Chinese officials promise to tighten regulations and support increased enforcement, but environmental advocates worry that the availability of legally-traded products will increase consumer demand for all types of tiger and rhino products.
While the Chinese government turns its back on these endangered animals, you can continue to support the work of our conservation partners who work tirelessly to protect rhinos, tigers, and their wild counterparts from poachers. Each time you purchase from one of our collections, we send 20% straight to our conservation partners.