China just banned the ivory trade — a major stand against illegal elephant poaching

On Friday, China announced it will shut down the legal ivory trade — banning all ivory commerce by the end of 2017, the New York Times reported. The move will likely deal a major blow to the business of elephant poaching, reported the Times, as China is currently the "world's largest ivory market."

A demand for ivory products has driven the illegal slaughter of thousands of elephants and has pushed some elephant populations in Africa near extinction, the Times reported.

Workers in Kenya prepare to burn confiscated ivory.Ben Curtis/AP

In a statement released after Friday's announcement, the World Wildlife Foundation celebrated the move. "China's announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation," the WWF said. "The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years, and the future is brighter for wild elephants. With the U.S. also ending its domestic ivory trade earlier this year, two of the largest ivory markets have taken action that will reverberate around the world."

China will shut down the ivory trade in stages, and will "help workers in the ivory industry, including master carvers, find related jobs."

China's decision to end the legal ivory trade is reportedly a result of communication between the Obama administration and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Times reported on Friday.