By Erik Crouch
Last week, Shanghaiist covered a massive ivory bust in a Chinese household in Tanzania, in which some 1.9 tons of ivory were found hidden amongst garlic-filled snail shells. The huge bust sparked some controversy online about the Chinese demand for ivory, and Xinhua has fired back in defense of China's ban on -- oh, sorry, China has no ban on the ivory trade at all.
According to Xinhua:
"Meng Xianlin, deputy director of China's Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office said that China, which has been making prestigious products from elephant ivory for almost 5,000 years, has taken most stringent regulatory measures on ivory trade.
"China does not ban domestic ivory trade, but it sets a ceiling for the amount of legal market consumption at five tonnes each year. [...\
"Meng said the ivory that is allowed for trade in China came from two sources -- those that were imported before China joined the CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species\ and the 62 tonnes of raw ivory stocks which China bought from four African countries in 2008, as permitted by the CITES."
Last week's Tanzania bust of 1.9 tons was linked to approximately 350 dead elephants, which means that the legal limit of 5 tons could be around 920 elephants, let alone the (much higher) numbers killed outside of the legal limit.
With no functioning ban on the domestic trade, there is still a sizable market for ivory in China and a relative ease with which it can be transported about the country. These loopholes are the poached and dying elephants in the room (see what I did there?) when talking about cases like last week's bust in Africa. Money from the ivory trade lines the pockets of luxury trinket-salesmen and charlatan "medicine" peddlers alike.