China's ivory industry is set to be phased out as the Chinese government has committed to "strictly control ivory processing and trade" until the products are no longer available in the market.
"We will strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted," China's State Forestry Administration head Zhao Shucong said, according to The Guardian.
The pronouncement was made in time with the destruction of more than 660 kg of confiscated ivory, which was attended by foreign diplomats and members of media.
Wildlife conservationists praised China's move to halt its legal ivory industry as it leads to elephant poaching, but they are waiting for more specific measures its government will implement to totally ban the activity, Huffington Post reported.
"It's very encouraging to see the world's largest consumer of ivory showing leadership at a time when the illegal ivory trade is leading to unprecedented elephant poaching across Africa.," said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for the World Wildlife Fund.
From 1.2 million in 1989 to just more than 400,000 in 2012, African elephant populations are quickly dropping.
"The destruction of ivory signals that wildlife crime will not be tolerated, and China's significant announcement that it will phase out its own ivory market is a very positive signal for elephant conservation," Hemley said.
Peter Knights, the executive director of anti-trafficking group WildAid, said that in its recent survey, "95% of Chinese supported a total ban on ivory sales. This would be the next logical step for China, as well as the greatest single measure to reduce poaching in Africa."
The Telegraph noted that African elephants are decreasing in number due to heavy demand for ivory in Asia, which authorities have failed to control as the smuggling network has become global. Experts say that China is the number one buyer of illegal ivory, comprising almost 70 percent of the international demand.
Products made of ivory are considered by many to be a status symbol.