XINHUA, China, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- China instated a one-year ban on African ivory carving imports Thusday.
Currently, Ivory carvings are legal in China, as long as all activities comply with a few regulations from the State Forestry Administration.
The State Forestry Administration said on their website Thursday that approval of imports will be at a standstill until Feb. 26, 2016. The administration said this ban has been placed in order to protect African elephants. The one-year time lapse will be used to evaluate the operation's success.
The agency's rules on raw elephant ivory, as well as its products, state that they should only be processed in certain designated areas, sold at fix shops and located in an individual item system, where every product has a photo ID and is tracked in a database.
In China there are approximately 150 legal and government-licensed ivory shops, which lure in the rich and powerful. For the Chinese, ivory carvings are an essential part of their heritage. They are seen as a symbol of luck and wealth.
Many shop owners re-use old IDs in order to sell new carvings. In January, Chinese customs officers destroyed six tonnes of seized ivory in an effort to tackle the problem head on, particularly that of endangering African elephants.
"In 2011, we had 25,000 elephants illegally killed on the African continent. Last year, it was 22,000. So that was almost 50,000 elephants illegally killed for their ivory in just two years," John Scanlon, secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, told the BBC.
"This is decimating the African elephant population and we will soon see local extinctions in some areas, in particular within Central Africa."