The Science for Nature and People (SNAP) partnership announced it has convened a new Expert Working Group, which will result in one of the most comprehensive studies to date of China’s illegal trade in ivory.
In May 2015 the government of the People’s Republic of China announced the domestic trade in ivory would be phased out, leading to a full commercial trade ban. The SNAP group will provide in-depth analysis and solutions to support this policy transition, with the ultimate aim of saving the greatest number of elephants. China was the destination for an estimated 70% of ivory seized worldwide between 1989 and 2011. A complete ban would strongly help prevent the slaying of approximately 35,000 elephants a year, the majority of which are poached illegally in Eastern Africa.
The Economics of the Chinese Ivory Trade Working Group comprises 16 of the world’s leading experts on wildlife conservation and economics, including from the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, the Sun Yat-Sen University and Beijing Normal University. They will work together over two years to assess the economic implications of the ban, both in China and African countries, maintaining a dialogue throughout with key stakeholders including Chinese ivory carving companies, trade associations, and retailers.
Dr. Aili Kang, Director, Asia Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and co-Principal Investigator of the Working Group said: “Together, the team will discuss and figure out how an ivory ban can best serve as a powerful tool to deter the demand for ivory and to assist stopping the illegal killing of elephants. What is unique with this group is that there is high participation by Chinese researchers, which is crucial in order to have any impact on China’s government.”
The Expert Working Group will model various forms of regulation and enforcement, and their impacts on the costs, benefits and risks for all market participants. A suggested domestic ban implementation plan will then be developed taking into account the management of potential challenges such as a pre-ban boom in demand, market speculation, or the perverse incentives resulting from reduced supply that could see poaching skyrocket. The final recommendations will be communicated to the State Forestry Administration, the CITES Management Authority of China, the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), as well as other key policy-making bodies.
Craig Groves, Executive Director, Science for Nature and People partnership, said: “So far SNAP has brought together 400 experts from 200 organizations and 34 countries to accelerate the transformation of people’s relationship with nature. The ban on the ivory trade in China is a great step forward, but to enforce it means understanding economics, not only in China, but also in the hunting grounds of Africa. We have brought together leading experts in animal protection and economics, from China and internationally. Together they’ll build up the evidence on which the Chinese government can rely as it looks to gain control over this illegal trade.”
 Based on data from the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS)
 Wittemyer, G., Northrup, J.M., Blanc, J., Douglas-Hamilton, I., Omondi, P., Burnham, K.P., 2014. Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.