China bans ivory imports for a year
China has imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports that took immediate effect amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory fuels poaching that threatens the existence of African elephants.
The State Administration of Forestry declared the ban in a public notice posted on its official site, in which it said the administration would not handle any import request.
In an explanatory news report, an unnamed forestry official told the state-run Legal Evening News that authorities hope the ban would be a concrete step to reduce the demand for African tusks and to protect wild elephants.
The official said the temporary ban would allow authorities to evaluate its effect on elephant protection before they can take further, more effective steps.
China is the world's largest importer of smuggled tusks, although Beijing has campaigned against illegal ivory.
Six tons of illegal ivory was pulverised last year in the southern city of Dongguan, and Chinese courts have stepped up prosecution of illegal ivory trade.
The government also has warned its citizens not to bring back any ivory, but critics say the public awareness campaign is inadequate as many Chinese do not know that tusks can only obtained by killing the elephant.
After China acquired a legal stockpile of ivory in 2008, demand for ivory has surged among increasingly affluent Chinese who see ivory as a status-defining luxury, and high profits have fuelled a strong underground market for the product.