China announced that it was banning all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017.
In the first step, a designated group of legal ivory processing factories and businesses will be forced to close by March 31.
The Ministry of Culture of China will assist in the transition of legal ivory into use in museums and other cultural sites, as well as help workers in the industry, including master carvers, find related jobs.
Under the new rules, people who own ivory products can keep them or give them as gifts, and owners can sell them at supervised auctions after getting official approval.
According to some estimates, more than 100,000 elephants have been wiped out in Africa over the past 10 years in a ruthless scramble for ivory driven by Chinese demand.
Some Chinese investors call ivory “white gold,” while carvers and collectors call it the “organic gemstone.”
The decision by China follows years of growing international and domestic pressure and gives wildlife protection advocates hope that the threatened extinction of certain elephant populations in Africa can be averted.
With the United States also ending its domestic ivory trade this year, two of the largest ivory markets have taken action that will reverberate around the world.
Wildlife researchers estimate that 50-70 per cent of all smuggled elephant ivory — maybe even more — ends up in China, where there are countless ivory workshops and showrooms.