NAIROBI, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) on Thursday welcomed China's move to ban its ivory trade by the end of 2017, calling it "a tremendous victory for elephants."
In a statement issued in Nairobi, Kenya, the global wildlife conservation charity said the move by Beijing would curb the slaughter of African elephants.
"This is a tremendous victory for elephants and we applaud China for showing such decisive action and leadership on this issue," IFAW President and CEO Azzedine Downes said in the statement.
Last week, China announced a phased schedule to stop part of ivory processing and sales by March 31, 2017, and to eventually stop all ivory processing and sales by the end of 2017.
The plan also encourages shifting ivory carvers to other materials and preserving ivory carvings for their non-commercial cultural value.
"With China so clearly stating that the world does not need ivory products, perhaps 2017 will be the year that we will see the end of the poaching crisis," said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW Asia Regional Director.
"To stop the slaughter of elephants, we have to break every link on the trade chain -- from poaching to trafficking to demand," she said.
Some conservationists have argued that China has a vast consumer market that fuels the elephant poaching across Africa.
During a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) held in South Africa in October 2016, delegates adopted a resolution calling for all countries with a legal domestic market for ivory to take measures to close their ivory markets.
China and the United States have made a joint commitment to ending domestic ivory trade and saving elephants.
Beth Allgood, IFAW U.S. Country Director, said China's move was absolutely essential in the fight to save elephants, calling for other countries to follow it.
"The U.S. and China must remain global leaders together and we invite other countries around the world to continue to join us in our steadfast commitment," Allgood said.
The move to shut down the ivory markets stems from a joint commitment that the Chinese and the U.S. presidents made during their meeting in Washington in September 2015 to imposing near-total ivory bans in their countries.
Reports say around 20,000 elephants continue to be killed illegally each year across the African continent, primarily to feed global demand.