Original source: Daily Mail
China needs to act now on the country's illegal ivory trade to stop elephants becoming extinct, according to one conservationist.
China accounts for 40 per cent of the world's trade in elephant tusks, with many bound for the country intercepted by customs officials in Hong Kong
Joyce Poole, co-director of Elephant Voices, said the creatures had experienced their worst year in history, with more than 7 per cent killed for their tusks in only a year.
She called for China to tackle the country's appetite for ivory to save the remaining 400,000 elephants from extinction, and said the species would be extinct within a decade if poaching continued at the current rate.
Nearly 40,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year, Poole told the South China Morning Post.
'It's either China does something, or we lose the elephants. It's that big,' she said.
'If we can't even save the elephants â€“ such an iconic keystone animal, important to the African habitat â€“ then what hope do we have?'
Ivory is known as 'white gold' in China, she said, and is symbol of wealth and status.
A worldwide ban on ivory was imposed in 1989, with two sanctioned sales of stock to China and Japan in 1999 and 2007.
Hong Kong customs officials have seized at least 16 tonnes of ivory worth HK$87million (more than Â£7million) bound for China in the past five years â€“ which would require the tusks of 1,800 elephants, the paper reported.
About 93 per cent of elephant carcasses have been found to have been killed by poachers, said Poole, who has researched elephants for 40 years.
One elephant would earn an African poacher the same as a typical annual salary, she told the newspaper.
'I think many people don't know that you can't get the tusks [for ivory] without killing the elephants,' Poole said.
'[Beijing is] still in denial that they have any part to play. Ivory isn't worth much to the [Chinese] economy, but losing the elephants will make a huge difference to African countries.' â€“ Daily Mail