KAMPALA, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Uganda's Tourism Ministry on Wednesday welcomed China's implementation of the ban on ivory trade, describing the move as "fantastic."
Ephraim Kamuntu, the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, told Xinhua in an interview that the ban on ivory trade has been long overdue across the world.
On Dec. 31, 2017, China closed its doors to the ivory trade as it officially became illegal to process or sell ivory and its products in the Asian country.
"It's fantastic. The ban of ivory trade and implementing should have been done a long time. So it's a welcome development by China. Uganda, as you know, we are endowed with elephants and they become easy targets as poachers want to kill them for ivory," said Kamuntu.
"So if there is a ban where you trade it, this is excellent. It helps us who are engaged in conservation. When there is no market where you can take the ivory it helps in conserving the elephants. We commend the Chinese government decision to ban the trade. It's incredible," he said.
By honoring its commitment to ending commercial processing and sales of ivory by the end of 2017, China has sent a "new year gift to the elephant," according to China's State Forestry Administration.
Uganda is mainly used as a transit point for smugglers of wildlife products of the animal species, which are protected by the international treaties, as the offenders take advantage of porous borders in Africa's Great Lakes region to move illegal wildlife products around, according to Uganda's tourism ministry.
"It will help us to stop Uganda being used as a transit point. We are already making considerable efforts to conserve our elephants by closing all the loopholes in which ivory can be smuggled," said Kamuntu.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on Tuesday lauded China's ban on ivory trade as a major milestone step.
UWA Executive Director Andrew Seguya told Xinhua that China's decision will go a long way in the conservation and protection of the African elephants.
"It gives us a lot of hope for elephants of Uganda, elephants of Africa and elephants of the world. So we congratulate the Chinese government for that decision," said Seguya.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of African elephants declined by 111,000 over the past 10 years. The overall trends in the poaching of African elephants show a decline from the 2011 peak, but are still at levels too high when viewed continent-wide.
China's move affects 34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with all of them to close, in the world's once largest ivory market, according to the Chinese government figures.