NAIROBI -- China's latest ban on processing and sale of ivory products marked a historic milestone in efforts to save African elephants from poaching, Kenyan wildlife officials said on Tuesday.
Richard Leakey, chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), hailed the Chinese government's decision, saying it will revitalize global action on illegal trade in trophies.
"I was pleased to learn about China's action that will sound a death knell to ivory trade. I hope other nations will follow China's example," Leakey told Xinhua.
The Chinese government on Dec. 30 announced it will phase out processing and sale of ivory by the end of 2017.
Beijing had previously imposed a three-year ban on ivory imports in a bid to strengthen global war against illegal trade in critical wildlife species.
Leakey said China's landmark ban on trade in ivory products had inspired the international community at a time efforts had gathered steam to halt loss of African elephants due to poaching and climatic stresses.
"The ban is a positive move that reinforces the urgency to save the remaining herd of elephants," said Leakey, adding that China's role was crucial to intensifying public awareness on elephant protection.
Kenya and China are in partnership in wildlife protection through technology and skills transfer. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, during his visit to Kenya in 2014, announced assistance to enhance protection of iconic wildlife species.
Leakey said that China's stewardship was crucial to re-energize wildlife protection initiatives in Kenya and across the region.
He said closure of the ivory market in many parts of the globe would deal a fatal blow to poaching of giant mammals.
On their part, Kenyan conservationists welcomed China's decision to ban ivory trade, saying it injected fresh vitality in policy and legislative interventions to save elephants.
Munira Bashir, the Kenya Program Director at The Nature Conservancy, described China's ban on ivory trade as a giant step towards elimination of wildlife crimes.
"We would like China to sensitize everyone that illegal ivory trade is a threat to elephants," Bashir said.
Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid, a US-based conservation lobby, also applauded China for the ban.
"This is probably the greatest single measure that could be taken to reduce poaching and help elephants," Knights said.