After the ban, experts suggest enhanced monitoring of "mammoth" sales
As China fully closed the door on the ivory trade on Sunday, experts called for enhanced monitoring of those still selling ivory under the guise of mammoth tusks.
China honored its commitment to end the commercial processing and sales of ivory by the end of 2017, the State Forestry Administration said, adding it was China's "New Year's gift to the elephants," Xinhua News Agency reported.
"We received notice months ago that by the end of the year, we have to stop selling ivory products," an employee from central Beijing's Wangfujing Gongmei emporium, which sold ivory products, told the Global Times on Monday.
She said that all remaining ivory products were sealed in wait for further regulations. Recently, many customers seized their last opportunity to buy ivory products at the store.
"Banning the commercial trade of ivory showed China's great improvements in valuing ecology and stricter management," Xie Yan, an associate research professor at the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.
"We should notice that not only the unusual, large and representative species should be protected; actually we need to protect the diversity of the whole Earth," Xie said.
However, some shops at an antique market in Beijing were still selling ivory products on Sunday, and a shop assistant told the Global Times that the products they have were from mammoths, not elephants.
"We were told that selling ivory products from elephants is illegal, but that it is OK to sell the tusks of long-dead woolly mammoths," the shop assistant said.
A pendant made from mammoth tusk on display at the shop was for sale for 49,600 yuan ($7,623).
"Mammoths became extinct long ago, so the trading of their tusks does not affect their population," Xie said.
However, some sellers might continue to trade ivory under the guise of mammoth products, as the tusks of the two species are barely distinguishable by most people, Xie said, noting that enforcement departments should strengthen the monitoring of such cases.
The move affected 34 processing companies and 143 designated trading venues in what was the world's largest ivory market, according to Xinhua.
"Chinese authorities will continue to clamp down on ivory collecting as well as processing, sales, transportation and smuggling of elephant tusks," the administration said.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of African elephants has declined by 111,000 over the past 10 years. The overall trend in the poaching of African elephants show a decline from the 2011 peak but is still at a high level when viewed continent-wide.
According to the State Council's 2016 notice, auctions of ivory antiques can be conducted with administrative permission and under strict monitoring.
"This is beneficial for continuing cultural heritage," said Yu Jinsheng, secretary-general of the China Association of Auctioneers.
"With the new regulation, the price of ivory antiques would rise back to previous levels," Yu said.