China is banning the import of ivory products for one year amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory is threatening the existence of African elephants.

The State Administration of Forestry declared the ban in a public notice issued Thursday, in which it said the administration would not handle any import request. The ban takes effect immediately.

In an explanatory news report, an unnamed forestry official told the state-run Legal Evening News that authorities hope the ban would be a concrete step to reduce the demand for African tusks and protect wild elephants. The official says the temporary ban would allow authorities to evaluate its effect on elephant protection before authorities can take further, more effective steps.

China is the world's largest importer of smuggled tusks.