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Comprehensive Ban on Domestic Trade of All Ivory Products and Existing Ivory Inventories to Go Into Effect January 1, 2020

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201807/14
  The Council of Agriculture under the Executive Yuan officially announced an amendment to Article 33 and Article 33-3 of the Enforcement Rules of the Wildlife Conservation Act which adds a provision allowing the competent conservation authorities to repeal previous approval documents which permit the trading, displaying, and exhibiting of protected wildlife products. The amendment specifies December 31, 2019 as the last day on which commercial trading of ivory will be permitted, thereby setting the stage for officially ending domestic sales of ivory and processed ivory products and putting into place a comprehensive ban on trading of ivory-related products in Taiwan. This action was taken in response to a call made by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to close all domestic ivory markets worldwide and put an end to the poaching of elephants due to the ivory trade, demonstrating Taiwan's firm commitment to play a role in international conservation efforts.
 
  In its "African Elephant Status Report 2016" published in 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) pointed out that the total population of wild African elephants, which numbered around 508,000 in 2006, declined to 415,000 in 2015, a dramatic reduction of about 20%. Based on this declining population trend, it is possible that African elephants could go extinct within the next 20 years. One of the greatest threats to the continued existence of wild elephant populations is poaching for ivory, a highly valued commodity.
 
  Consequently, during the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) which took place in October 2016 in South Africa, representatives from member nations adopted a resolution calling on countries worldwide to close down their lawfully operated domestic ivory markets. In the same year, the United States and China — which have the two largest ivory markets in the world — each unveiled legislation banning commercial sales of ivory, which will effectively shield the elephant population from further decline. In 2018, Hong Kong also passed a bill which will impose a ban on their local ivory trade by the end of 2021. These coordinated actions to close ivory trade markets are necessary actions that countries must take in order to effectively put an end to elephant poaching and protect elephants.
 
  According to the Forestry Bureau, when Taiwan's Wildlife Conservation Act was amended in 1994, the regulations prescribed under Article 16 of the Act banned, in principle, the trading of ivory as well as the display and exhibition of ivory in public places. However, since the livelihoods of numerous businesses at the time relied on ivory to create various artistic works and carvings, and since such businesses already had large quantities of these products in their inventories when the regulations were amended, the "Supplemental Directions for the Management of Ivory Product Inventories" were formulated in 1995 in order to protect their rights and interests. The Directions stipulated that trading of existing inventories of ivory products which were declared to and approved by the competent authorities in that year would still be permitted. This step was taken as a buffer measure to help businesses impacted by the amended regulations. This buffer period protecting residual inventories of ivory has remained in effect since 1995, resulting in a grace period of nearly a quarter of a century. During this time, the concept of conservation has become more widely understood and appreciated in Taiwan, and the demand for ivory products has likewise declined sharply — on average, only about 100 ivory products are legally traded annually. In light of this, and in recognition of the imminent threat to the continued existence of elephant populations, the Forestry Bureau held talks with domestic business representatives from the ivory carving, jewelry, and arts industries in order to draft the present amendment, which will introduce a comprehensive ban on the domestic ivory trade taking effect on January 1, 2020.
 
  The Forestry Bureau has also made a concerted effort over the years to ramp up inspections of domestic enterprises and actively search and seize smuggled goods in Taiwan. The Bureau's actions have been reflected in the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), and the CITES Secretariat has since removed Taiwan from the list of countries of concern in the illegal trade of ivory, demonstrating that Taiwan's dedication to conservation efforts has received international recognition. Nevertheless, aside from ivory, elephants are increasingly being poached for their hides and other byproducts. The latest amendment to the Enforcement Rules of the Wildlife Conservation Act reflects Taiwan's commitment to international cooperation on elephant conservation and demonstrates that Taiwan is working hard to help protect global biodiversity by taking tangible steps toward eliminating the trade of existing ivory product inventories. Meanwhile, the Forestry Bureau will continue to ramp up search and seizure efforts to combat the illegal ivory trade.
 
  Furthermore, the Forestry Bureau reiterates that the trade, display, and exhibition of legally tradeable inventories of ivory products must still undergo a review and permit process conducted by county and city governments at this time. Article 40 of the Wildlife Conservation Act stipulates that anyone found guilty of violating the law shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than six months and not more than five years and/or fined not less than NT$300,000 and not more than NT$1,500,000. It is anticipated that this coordinated initiative to close down ivory markets around the world will help wild elephant populations continue to grow and thrive in their natural habitats and prevent this cherished and majestic creature from vanishing from our planet.
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