China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) has announced a one-year ban on the import of African ivory acquired as hunting trophies.

File photo: Alex Hofford/WildAid, HKFP.

The agency said that no imports will be approved until October 15th, 2016.

Alex Hofford, a wildlife campaigner for WildAid welcomed the announcement as “good news for elephants and bad news for hunters and the criminal syndicates that stand behind them.”

“It also marks a significant step in China’s incremental approach to shut down their legal ivory market. Obviously the noose is now getting tighter on Hong Kong’s zombie bureaucrats at AFCD to take meaningful action – not just window-dressing – and get tough on wildlife crime. It is time for the Hong Kong government to end their institutionalised leniency towards the city’s ivory traders, and ban commercial local ivory sales immediately.”

The news follows a similar year-long ban announced in February related to African ivory carvings acquired after 1975, the year the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took effect.

The SFA will decide shortly as to whether February’s ban will be extended.

US President Barack Obama welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping during a State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb.

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US in September, the two countries committed to a near-complete ban on ivory imports and exports, with restrictions on the domestic commercial trade and on hunting trophies.

Britain’s Prince William urged an end to the ivory trade during his visit to China in March. Thursday’s ban comes days before Xi is due to visit the UK, where he is expected to stay at Buckingham Palace.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.