The end of the world’s largest ivory market was announced Sunday by China as it released a detailed timetable for ending its legal ivory trade – as conservation groups called on Thailand and Japan to follow suit.
Domestic ivory sales will be banned by the end of this year, with the first batch of factories and traders to close their business by March 31.
Last year, President Xi Jinping made a public commitment to phasing-out the ivory trade, which may be falling out of favour with Chinese consumers.
A recent survey by conservation group Save the Elephants reported that ivory prices in eight mainland Chinese cities had fallen by half in a two years to December 2015.
Anecdotal evidence gathered by WildAid campaigners in China suggest prices dropped further last year.
A ban was first proposed to the National People’s Congress by former basketball star Yao Ming, who also led documentaries on ivory trade for state broadcaster CCTV in partnership with WildAid.