New York – Jan. 3, 2016 – Below is the text of China’s historic announcement on ivory made on Dec. 30, 2016.  This text was translated by the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

A Notice by the General Office of State Council on the Orderly Cessation of Commercial 

Processing and Sale of Ivory and Ivory Products (Published at Dec 30th, 2016)


To All Provincial, Autonomous Regional and Municipal Governments, All Ministries of State Council, and Affiliated Organizations:


In order to improve elephant conservation and combat illegal ivory trade, the following notifications approved by the State Council are issued to stop the processing and sale of ivory and ivory products:


1. Phase out commercial processing and sale of ivory and ivory products. A portion of registered ivory sale and processing sites will stop their processing and sale activities on ivory and ivory products by March 31, 2017.  All the processing and sale of ivory and ivory products will be stopped by December 31, 2017. The State Forestry Administration will confirm the list of these registered sites and make a public announcement. Relevant registered traders and processors should end all the ivory processing and sale activities within the required period and apply to cancellation and alternation of registration at the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC)[1]. The AIC departments should not take any registration applications to establish or make alternation to commercial operations engaged in the processing and sale of ivory and ivory products.


2. Encourage the transition of ivory carving skills or artistry. After commercial processing and sale of ivory and ivory products has ceased, government culture departments[2] shall provide transition guidance to ivory carving skill successors and related practitioners[3]seek for livelihoods in other sectors to which their skills can be transferred. For representative successors of national or provincial intangible Cultural Heritage projects of ivory carving, immediate actions should be taken to record their core carving skills and process flows in details. Famous ivory carving masters will be encouraged to work in museums and other venues for art restoration related to ivory. Ivory carving skill successors[4] will be encouraged to develop skills or technology that can use alternative materials such as other teeth and bones for carving. Non-profit civil cultural organizations and sector associations can establish ivory-carving studios working on the ivory carving skills or techniques and heritage research[5], but they should not engage in any commercial activities.

3. Strengthen the management of legal collection of ivory and ivory products. Prohibit trading ivory and ivory products through their display for sale in markets or transaction on the internet. Legally-sourced ivory and its products can be officially labeled as such for display in museums and art galleries for non-commercial purposes or on exhibition, and can be transported, gifted and inherited. Legally-sourced ivory relics [6]certified by professional institutions[7] can be auctioned[8] under strict monitoring after administrative approval[9].


4. Enhance the law enforcement and education. China’s Public Security, Customs, Industry and Commerce Administration, and Forestry departments should take respective responsibility for enhanced enforcement; management and inspections; increasing law enforcement actions against the illegal processing, selling, transporting and smuggling of ivory and ivory products. This will involve market investigations and inspections, along with shutting down illegal processing sites and disrupting physical and online illegal ivory-trading channels. Public education should be carried out to advocate Ecological Civilization, guide the public to boycott illegal ivory trade, and promote the conservation of elephants and other wildlife.


All provincial, autonomous regional and municipal governments and relevant departments should take a leading role in the division of responsibilities. This will ensure the phase out of commercial processing and sale of ivory and ivory products, while securing livelihood needs for individuals involved in enterprises related to such work, with the result of achieving greater social harmony and stability.

[1] The notice does not clarify the level of AIC in the document. It does not list State Administration for Industry and Commerce specifically.

[2] The notice does not clarify the level of culture administration in the document. It does not list Ministry of Culture specifically.

[3] There is no definition in the document to define practitioners. It can be employees from those processing or retail units.

[4] There is no definition in the document about “传承者which can be special group of people who are students from those masters or can be practitioners who has inherited carving knowledge.

[5] The text here does not clarify what “传承工作“ includes. It can be heritage research, carving history or development research, or carving skill research, etc.

[6] Definition of “culture relic” is not the same to “antique”, given different definition on time or culture meanings. 

[7] The definition of “professional institution” does not listed in the document. Government authorities may have a list of those institutions.

[8] There are no specific words about antique ivory specifically, which means all ivory or ivory products including those ivory antiques for commercial purpose will be stopped by end of 2017. However, auction for those certificated “ivory relic” is an exceptional one according to this content.

[9] Related government authorities need to follow up this and clarify what administrative approval should be requested for auction.