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Stopping Ivory Demand


Smuggled ivory seized in Zhuhai, China

Each year, at least 20,000 African elephants are illegally killed for their tusks. A recent resurgence in demand for ivory, particularly in China, fuels this rampant poaching epidemic. The elephant ivory trade not only threatens the very survival of this iconic species and causes broader ecological consequences, but also endangers the lives and livelihoods of local people and undermines national and regional security. 

Promisingly, we have a historic opportunity to stop the African elephant poaching crisis: China has taken the remarkable step of closing its legal domestic ivory market at the end of 2017; Hong Kong has also agreed to a market closure by 2021; and other Asian countries with open ivory trade and are under substantial pressure to take action.

WWF has successfully driven international action at the highest levels that, along with diplomatic and public pressure from all sides, contributed to the game-changing China ban. Now, we must work quickly to ensure the ban is successful by eliminating remaining consumer demand for ivory and black-market sales. Access to ivory outside China could seriously undermine the effectiveness of China’s ban.

WWF is addressing the root of the problem by working directly with other governments to ensure the eminent closure of their ivory markets, as well as working to understand the underlying motivations of ivory buyers and develop strategies to influence them. Our goal is to create a new social norm of rejecting ivory products.

Turtles, tigers, and more species receive additional protections at global wildlife meeting

Governments from around the world recently gathered to discuss the threat of wildlife trade on species.

Hawksbill turtle swimming underwater in North Madagascar.

Why It Matters

  • The illegal ivory trade is driven by transnational organized crime syndicates. They devastate elephant populations and undermine the rule of law, destabilize governments and promote corruption. Rangers and local communities are often caught in the crossfire of wildlife crime. Ending the demand for ivory will alleviate the strain poaching puts on local populations and enforcement agents.

What WWF Is Doing


Changing Consumer Behavior

Chinese consumers are the driving demographic for ivory sales globally. Together with TRAFFIC, WWF is working with a leading consumer research firm to better understand consumer attitudes and desire for ivory so that we can change social norms around ivory and reduce demand. Through this research, we will identify ivory purchasers and consumers, understand their underlying motivations, and develop effective strategies to influence them and create a new social norm of rejecting ivory products. At the same time, closing markets and promoting the law makes it harder to find ivory and deters law-abiding citizens from engaging in illegal activity.

Closing Ivory Markets

China’s ivory ban is a historic milestone in the ongoing effort to save an iconic species. But as China’s markets close, markets elsewhere remain open and continue to attract consumers. And as more and more Chinese travel internationally—nearly 200 million Chinese tourists travel abroad each year—incidents of ivory smuggling are on the rise. This access to ivory outside China could seriously undermine the effectiveness of China’s 2017 ivory ban unless we address it. Closing the most troublesome legal and illegal markets that largely exist to serve Chinese nationals—those in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos, for example—will help dry up demand.

WWF plans to work directly with these countries to support the closing of their ivory markets, facilitate encouragement from China and other countries already taking action, and leverage international policy and diplomacy channels, including CITES. By tackling these markets now as part of a pan-Asian approach, WWF aims to leverage China’s recent actions to ban the ivory trade to prevent further displacement of the current China ivory trade to nearby countries.

Amplifying Efforts Through Corporate Engagement

We aim to engage with leading online retailers, social media owners, tourism companies, overseas investors and service agencies. Strong partnerships are already in place with the travel and e-commerce sectors, with commitments to avoid promoting, handling or selling elephant ivory.