Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A Kenya-based animal protection group said wild elephants could disappear within the next generation unless the Chinese government takes immediate steps to crack down on the illegal ivory trade.
In a report, Save The Elephants said China's illegal ivory trade has spiraled out of control due to voracious demand.
During a news conference in Nairobi, Iain Hamilton, founder of the organization, estimated that 100,000 wild elephants had been killed in Africa over the past three years for their ivory. China remains the "key" to the future of elephants, he said.
According to the report, the average wholesale price of raw ivory in China increased threefold over the four years from 2010. The average retail price increased 13.5 times in Beijing and eight times in Shanghai between 2002 and 2014.
An investigation into 275 retailers that deal in ivory in the two cities found that more than 78 percent of stores in Beijing and over 89 percent of stores in Shanghai were dealing in illegal products.
The report said the illicit trade began to explode in China after 2008 when the import of 62 tons of ivory, mainly from elephants that died from natural causes, was approved in an exceptional case.
It drove demand for ivory, which is a status symbol in China. The growing demand comes mainly from the rapidly expanding affluent population, the report said.