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Conservationists Ask Chinese President to End Ivory Trade

A group of UK environmentalists, entertainers and politicians have called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to end the trade of ivory in his country and help stop the killing of African elephants.

While many countries contribute to ivory trafficking, "most of the poached ivory finds its way to China, where the demand for ivory has soared in recent years, as China's growing middle-class citizens become increasingly affluent," they say in a letter to the Chinese leader. The signees include broadcaster David Attenborough, comedian Ricky Gervais and more than forty members of Parliament.

"China is now in the forefront of humanity's march into the 21st century, and it will earn international respect and appreciation if it can bring to an end a tradition that is based on the brutal killing of tens of thousands of African elephants each year and the potential demise of a species," they say in the letter.

The trade in illegal ivory leads to the killing of at least 20,000 elephants every year, according to a 2014 report from environmental group Born Free USA and C4ADs, driving a lucrative criminal market. The price of a kilogram of ivory in China shot up to about $2,100 in 2014, according to the report.

Yao Ming Aims to Ban Ivory Trade 2:31

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--- NBC News Staff