Former NBA star Yao Ming. a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, attends a press conference in Beijing on Thursday, March 6, 2014. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Liu Yuanhui]
At the sideline of the "two sessions," former NBA star Yao Ming, who is also a member of the top advisory body, is calling on the Chinese government to fully ban sales of ivory.
CRI's Shen Ting has the details.
In recent years, the revival of trade in ivory has resulted in rampant poaching and smuggling of ivory, leading to significant reductions in elephant populations.
Yao Ming, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, put forward a proposal that China should fully eradicate the sales of illegal animal products through legislation.
"I want the ivory consumers to know that buying ivory is like buying bullets. I recommend the government to make ivory sales illegal, which should be stated definitively by the law and carried out by all departments. "
But in China's ivory trade, consumers are only able to purchase ivory products made prior to 1989 from a number of authorized organizations with a license to sell ivory. These stipulations were the result of the Chinese government's entry into the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. The Convention aims at banning international ivory trade and curbing the rapid decline in Africa's elephant population.
However, because of the immense size of China's ivory market, complex management systems, consumer inability to determine the legal status of ivory products, and smuggling means that illegal ivory continues to enter China; adding pressure and complexities to the work of customs officials.
Yao adds that a complete ban on the sale of ivory requires the promotion of animal protection awareness among the government and the public.
"If we have laws and regulations to ban the sales of ivory, but there remains so much demand, the prices on the black market would rise, which would drive more people to poach. What we can do is put forward relevant proposals, while the media could help raise the awareness of the public in this regard."
According to WildAid, an organization focused on reducing the demand for wildlife products, it is estimated that at least 20,000 elephants are being killed each year for their ivory. Elephant populations have reduced by 62 percent over the last 10 years.
Zi Wen, chief representative of WildAid in China says that illegal ivory trade benefits from a sizeable black market nationwide.
"Ivory sculpting is a part of Chinese tradition; and many people like to collect these sculptures. With the growing economy, more people can afford to buy ivory. So a high demand has led to the formation of a black market."
On the policy side of things, China has introduced special protective measures for endangered species in an effort to stamp out the illegal trade of ivory.
China has recently begun strengthening enforcement on illegal ivory smuggling, and earlier this year destroyed over 6 tons of confiscated ivory, showing the resolve of the Chinese government to stifle the trade in illegal wildlife products.
Zi Wen says that China has made great achievements in recent years on the protection of wildlife.
"The country has led several operations such as Cobra II, which fights against international wildlife crimes with other countries. Additionally, China also implemented several laws to ban the killing of endangered animals like Rhinoceros and tigers and their executive capability to crack down crimes has increased a lot."
For CRI, this is Shen Ting.