Illegal ivory has halved in value in China according to new research, leading to hopes that the demand which drives poaching in Africa might be on the wane.

Kenya-based conservation organisation Save the Elephants said Monday that the price of illegal raw ivory in China had fallen to $1,100 (1,000 euros) per kilogramme, down from a record high last year of $2,100 (1,900 euros) per kilo.

Kenyan activist Daniel Ole Tembo, a Masaai warrior and Predator Protection Programme Coordinator for Big Life Foundation, a Kenya-based NGO. Photo: Alex Hofford / WildAid.

“The news gives cautious hope that the unsustainable killing of Africa’s elephants — driven by demand for their tusks — may eventually be reduced,” Save the Elephants said in a statement.

The group added that at current prices the organised criminal gangs that run the illegal ivory trade will still make profits but that “the trend is a positive sign”.

China has this year taken steps to reduce both the legal and illegal ivory trades — although a total ban has not been put in place — and awareness of the impact of the trade on Africa’s elephants is growing among Chinese consumers.

Ivory trade in East Africa during the 1880s and 1890s. Photo: Wikicommons.

Chinese celebrities have fronted advertising campaigns and in October Britain’s Prince William appealed to Chinese people to boycott ivory during a state visit to London by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year.

“The fall in the price of ivory gives us hope, but with numbers of elephants still being killed in Africa we’re a long way from celebrating yet,” said Save the Elephants founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

The international ivory trade was banned in 1989 but one-off sales of ivory stockpiles have since been permitted and trade in old ivory is also allowed, giving criminal smugglers cover for their illegal trade.

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.