Totally banning the sale of ivory, both legal and illegal, seems to be the only way to control this illicit trade. In 2015, the two largest markets of ivory, China and the United States, agreed to cooperate in the total ban of the sale of ivory. Under the President Obama administration, the United States made good on its promise. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the sale of ivory across state lines and strengthened limitations on international trade. The new regulations stipulated that only antique items that are more than 100 years-old or objects that only contain small amounts of ivory, such as musical instruments, can be legally traded. In addition, ivory trophy imports are now only limited to two per year per hunter. The previous laws allowed for unlimited trophy imports.
China, on the other hand, responded by issuing a temporary ban on ivory imports. In 2015, the China State Forestry Administration imposed a one-year ban on imports of ivory hunting trophies and then extended the ban until the end of 2019.
Conservation institutions have been lobbying the Chinese government to quickly implement the total and permanent ban on the trade. This includes not only the ban of imports but also the domestic sale of ivory. Xu Yang, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) specialist, believes that most Chinese buyers would cease purchasing ivory if legal trade was completely closed. Xu also expressed that the ban “would leave no room for speculators to operate if the ban on ivory trade in China were permanent.” This signifies that the total and permanent ban on the sale of ivory would deter sellers from holding on to their goods until the ban is lifted at a later date.
In September 2016, during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference that gathered leading conservation organizations and governments, China attempted to showcase the efforts it has made in protecting wildlife. But once again, conservationists insisted on closing the loopholes. Steven Board, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, urged China’s action saying, “…China has made a great deal of progress in addressing wildlife trade issues in recent years and even indicated their intention to close the domestic ivory market…we encourage the Chinese to implement this domestic ivory ban as quickly as possible….[marking] a significant breakthrough in efforts to protect the world’s elephants.”