UNTIL the end of 2017, carved elephant tusks were still sold legally in China. International trade in ivory had been banned by the government since 1990, but not domestic transactions. At a shop in a glitzy mall in Beijing, the manager showed off his prize exhibit: a carving the size of a football of 30 ivory spheres, one inside the other, each moving separately and intricately carved. It was an example of an ancient craftsmanship, and one that has no future. On January 1st China banned ivory sales. The last ivory-carving factories and shops (including the one in Beijing) closed.
Environmentalists have long fretted about the impact that a rising China will have on the natural world. They worry not only about carbon emissions but also that, one day, the last tiger will be killed so its penis can be turned into an ineffective aphrodisiac or the last elephant slaughtered so its tusks can be carved into a gift. Yet as China has grown richer, it…Continue reading