JOHANNESBURG, June 8 (Xinhua) -- China has upped the ante in the fight against the illegal trade of wildlife, putting in place various measures to tackle the issue, the Chinese ambassador to South Africa said Thursday here at a conference.
Speaking at the Africa - China Wildlife Conservation Conference at Wits university, ambassador Lin Songtian said that China has implemented stringent measures in recent years, demonstrating its commitment to curbing wildlife trafficking.
He used China's introduction of a ban on ivory trade as an example.
"As we all know, ivory carving is an important intangible cultural heritage cherished in China. But to show the firm determination and resolve of the Chinese government on wildlife protection, we have decided to put a comprehensive ban on all ivory products trade including those that are illegally sourced," he said.
China's ivory ban, effective on Jan. 1 this year, resulted in the closure of hundreds of factories and other shops which sold ivory across China, and won applause from many conservation groups and individuals.
"The Chinese citizens and companies are strictly banned from ivory trade and elephant poaching. Chinese citizens are strictly prohibited from smuggling ivory and ivory products. If government workers were found to be involved, they will not only be punished by law, but also be expelled from office. It is fair to say that the Chinese government has adopted the world's toughest stance of zero tolerance on wildlife protection," he said.
He also said that the involvement of Chinese nationals in the illegal poaching of rhino horns and ivory "undermined the image of China" and urged African countries to be harsh when dealing with wildlife criminals.
Zhou Jinfeng, secretary general of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, said that while a concerted effort was being made to protect endangered species, illegal trafficking was still widespread.
"Poaching is still terrible, we have confiscated many pangolins, we want to save more. We work with different embassies in China," he added.
The conference was co-organized by the Africa-China Reporting Project based at Wits and some NGOs.