NAIROBI, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erick Solheim on Friday hailed the decision of the Chinese government to ban the processing and sale of ivory domestically.
"This is a historic step and may well be a turning point in our fight to save the elephant from extinction. We need more territories to follow suit," Solheim told Xinhua in an emailed statement.
The UNEP chief welcomed the Chinese government's decision to shut down 67 carving factories and outlets as part of a partial ban on ivory trade, pending the full ban by the end of this year.
"The true measure of the success of these rules will be how well they are enforced," Solheim said.
Beijing took the unprecedented step of banning the ivory trade when authorities declared the shutting down of one third of the ivory processing factories on Friday.
At least 105 other factories and outlets are earmarked for closure this year.
Conservationists say the Chinese clampdown on the ivory trade has already pushed the prices of the ivory and the number of elephants killed in the last three years down by 65 percent, according to a report by Save the Elephants.
Save the Elephants researchers said the price of ivory dropped drastically from its peak of 2,100 U.S. dollars per kg in 2014 to 730 dollars per kg in Feburary, 2017.
UNEP has been running the Wild for Life campaign against poaching and illegal trade in the endangered species to raise awareness on the need for the conservation of the big game.
Solheim congratulated the Chinese authorities for spearheading the campaign to end the trade in ivory, which is illegal in most countries with elephant herds.
"We will continue to work closely with the Chinese government to ensure a healthy national legacy remains for our children and grandchildren," Solheim told Xinhua.