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Following an agreement made with the United States in September 2015, the Chinese government will finally begin phasing out ivory trade until a complete ban is initiated by the end of 2017.

The ban’s deadline and details were announced at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in October. As China is the largest market for legal and illegal ivory in the world, with as much as an estimated 70% of ivory worldwide ending up in the country, this ban on all exports and imports has the potential to save tens of thousands of elephants from poachers every year.

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The government will start by bringing a halt to commercial processing and sale of ivory by March 31st, followed by registered traders.

The landmark decision is greatly welcomed by the nation’s citizens as well – a new study by wildlife group Save the Elephants shows public opinion in China has swung wildly against the ivory trade since 2012 when less than half of the population thought it posed a problem. Today, more than 71% oppose the trade.

That appears to be driving an 85% plummet in the number of Chinese ivory purchases since 2012, and the subsequent price cut from $4,600 a pound to $2,400.

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