Tag Archives: WildAid

Hong Kong snubs calls to join Elephant Protection Initiative

South China Morning Post
29 November, 2014
Hong Kong officials have rejected requests by activist groups for the city to join an African-led conservation initiative for elephants that aims to shut ivory markets and stamp out the trade.
The groups, including the African Wildlife Foundation, Wild Life Risk and WildAid, wrote to the government this month asking it to join the Elephant Protection Initiative.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest transit hubs and markets for contraband ivory, consistently ranking fifth for the quantity seized since the global trade in ivory was banned in 1989.
The Elephant Protection Initiative, started in February, requires partner states and organisations to work towards closing domestic ivory markets and to put all stockpiles beyond economic use. Five African elephant range states are part of the initiative – Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania.
In a written response to the activist groups, Richard Chan Ping-kwong, senior endangered species protection officer at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said there was no need to adjust conservation measures already in place.
“While [Hong Kong] would not be able to join the ‘Elephant Protection Initiative’ … we will continue our unwavering efforts to implement the CITES provisions and maintain our enforcement momentum,” Chan wrote.
He was referring to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, an inter-governmental deal to protect plants and animals threatened by international trade. China is a signatory.
Hong Kong has banned all external trade of ivory but has a commercial licensing system to regulate the domestic sale of legal ivory. Chan said the system – which requires all who own commercial stocks of ivory in the city to obtain licences – was effective.
WildAid campaigner Alex Hofford expressed disappointment at the government’s decision. The city should “stand in solidarity with the five African elephant range states”, given its status as a huge ivory demand and transit point, he said.
“If Hong Kong could only join hands with them as the first non-range state to join the [initiative] … It could send a very strong signal to the city’s ivory traders that enough is enough, and that they should stop trading illegal ivory immediately,” he said.
Hofford said he suspected the government turned down the invitation because Beijing had voted against joining the initiative at July’s CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva.
Activists will protest against the government’s decision outside the China Goods Centre, a major ivory goods retailer, in North Point at 11am today.
Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat earlier this year asked the initiative’s secretariat to urge the Hong Kong government to join the programme. “Hong Kong now seems eligible to join the Elephant Protection Initiative as the city is currently undertaking the destruction of its stockpile and moving towards domestic legislation,” she had said.
At the beginning of the year the government began destroying 28 tonnes of its 29.6-tonne stockpile of confiscated ivory – the rest will be kept for scientific and teaching purposes. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said 11.4 tonnes had been destroyed and the incineration would continue until the middle of next year.

Influential Chinese business leaders say no to ivory

February 2014
Wildlife Extra News

More than 30 business leaders in China have taken a public stand against the ivory trade by signing a pledge to never purchase, possess, or give ivory as a gift.

The group includes Charles Chao, CEO of Sina Corp., China’s largest Internet portal, Liu Chuanzhi, Chair of Lenovo, and 10 individuals from the Forbes 2013 China Rich List including Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group. “As China grows up, Chinese companies should do the same and take on more social responsibility,” said WildAid China Chair, Huang Nubo who spearheaded the campaign. “This is why we are joining efforts to protect our planet’s wildlife. We hope this ethic becomes engrained in us and is passed down to future generations.”

The Chinese government crushed more than six tonnes of its ivory stockpile earlier this year and is considering ending legal ivory sales, which have been shown to enable laundering of poached ivory.

Ivory Pledge

In recent years, poaching as a result of the trade in illegal ivory is posing enormous threats to the survival of elephants. I’m aware of the following:

1. Each year around 25,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory2. The population of elephants has declined 62% in the last 10 years3. Rampant elephant poaching is having negative impacts on the economy, tourism, and national security of many African nations4. Terrorist groups in Africa are being supported in part through the illegal ivory trade5. According to official reports and statistics, China is the largest importer of illegal ivory, and Chinese nationals are increasingly involved in the illegal ivory trade6. Illegal ivory trade is damaging China’s international reputation.  Because of this, I pledge the following: 1. I will not purchase, possess, or give ivory as a gift2. I will encourage friends, family, and employees to not purchase ivory products Signatories
Cao Guowei (Charles Chao) – CEO, Sina Corp

Deng Feng – CEO and Chairman, Beiji Guangfeng Investment Fund Ding Liguo – Founder, Liguo Corp. Feng Lun – Chairman, Vantone Holdings Huang Nubo – Chairman, Zhongkun GroupJiang Xipei – Chairman, Yuandong HoldingsLi Dongsheng – Chairman, TCL Group Li Shufu – Chairman, Geely Group Li Zhenfu – China Regional President, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Liu Chuanzhi – Chairman, Lenovo Liu Donghua – Founder, Zhenghedao Group Liu Jiren – Chairman, Dongruan Group Liu Jun – Deputy Chairman, Guangxi People’s Congress CommitteeMa Yun (Jack Ma) – Founder, Alibaba Group Niu Gensheng – Founder, Lao Niu Foundation Shen Guojun – CEO and Chairman, Yintai Holdings Corp. Tang Yue – Founding Partner, Blue Mountain China Capital Wang Chaoyong – Founder and President, Xinzhongli International Holdings Wang Junhao – Deputy Chairman, Junyao Group Wang Lifen – Founder, Beijing Youshimi Internet Technology Co. Ltd.Wang Wenjing – CEO and Chairman, Yongyou Software Corp.Wang Zhongjun – Chairman, Huaiyi Brothers Media Corp. Wu Jianmin – Deputy Director, China External Affairs Committee Wu Yajun – Chairman, Longhu Group Xia Hua – Chairman, Yiwen Enterprise Group Xie Mian – Art and culture criticXu Shaochun – Founder, Jindie Software GroupXu Zhihong – Scholar, China Academy of ScienceYang Shaopeng – Chairman, Haifeng International Shipping Corp.Yu Minhong – Founder, New Oriental GroupYuan Yue – Chaiman, Lingdian Consulting Zhang Weiying – Renowned Economist Zhang Xingsheng ( Jim Zhang) – Managing Directory, The Nature Conservancy Greater China Region Zhou Qiren – Dean, Peking University National Development AcademyZhou Qifeng – Renowned Chemist Zhu Xinli – Chairman, Beijing Huiyuan Beverage Company

Uganda: China Joins War Against Illegal Trade in Ivory

By Simon Musasizi, The Observer

16 January 2014

The fight to save Africa’s elephants has reached China, arguably the biggest market for ivory – the single most important reason the giant beast is quickly becoming an endangered species.

China recently destroyed six tons of confiscated ivory, raising hopes for progress in the war against illicit trade in the commodity, most of which comes from Africa. The destruction of the ivory took place in Dongguan city in the southern province of Guangdong, a major hub for the ivory trade.

The statistics tell a much deeper story. In 1930, there were between five and ten million wild African elephants; by 1990, when they were added to the list of critically endangered species, only about 600,000 remained. By 2009, the elephants in Africa stood at 500,000. Most fingers have been pointed at China as part of the reason behind this decline. China’s rapid economic growth continues to build a burgeoning middle class that can afford–and is demanding greater quantities for ivory.

Recent surveys indicate that a large portion of China’s population is unaware of the death toll to create ivory and rhino horn products. Many think ivory is grown on trees in Africa; they have no idea that their current demand for ivory is estimated to claim the lives of as many as 35,000 African elephants annually.

“Excess demand for ivory is the root of the elephant poaching crisis. All other efforts to stop the killing of elephants will be useless if the world doesn’t stop buying ivory. China’s leadership could save Africa’s elephants,” said Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton, CEO of Save the Elephants, in a press statement issued by Brian Adams, WildAid US Communications Director.

In the statement, WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), applauded China’s decision as a way of sending out a message to Chinese of how devastating their luxury has had on the African wildlife. In 2013, the NGOs, along with former NBA superstar Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, called on China to raise awareness about elephant poaching, to reduce the demand for ivory, and protect endangered wildlife.

“The demand for illegally-traded ivory negatively impacts Africa’s tourism industry and reportedly contributes to funds used by terror and insurgent groups,” said WildAid’s Executive Director Peter Knights.

WildAid spearheaded a campaign in 2006 to reduce the demand for shark fin soup in China. Through its partnership with Save the Elephants and AWF, similar public awareness tactics are being used to inform consumers of the impact of ivory demand.

“As the largest ivory market in the world, China has a significant role to play in combating the illegal trade in ivory,” said AWF’s CEO Patrick Bergin.

“We commend the Chinese government for taking this important first step and hope it signals their sincere and growing commitment to help end the elephant slaughter in Africa.”

Uganda has faced its fair share of illegal trade in ivory. Last year, cases of confiscated ivory were on the rise, with the biggest catch coming from Bweyogerere, where Uganda Revenue Authority impounded ivory amounting to 1,903kg (worth Shs 6.4bn) in containers destined for Mombasa. The consignment had 832 pieces of ivory, which means that about 416 elephants were killed.

Later, some Chinese and Guineans were arrested with 116kg of ivory at Entebbe airport. Towards the end of 2013, another consignment of about 1,000kg was impounded at Entebbe airport. Earlier there were other several cases around Fort Portal town, which is situated close to some national parks.

According to Abiaz Rwamwiri, AWF Uganda’s communication officer, AWF has launched dual public awareness campaigns aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking from the suppliers and the buyers.

“‘African Voices for Wildlife’ is taking place in Africa; the ‘Say No’ campaign is focused in Asia,” he said.

The campaign, which will be popularised through advertisements on billboards, at airports, on buses, among others, will prominently feature Africans expressing outrage, distress and sorrow about the current poaching epidemic and the impact this could have on them and future generations.

In China, you don’t have to look far to find illegal ivory

Oscar Holland and Suia Chen, The Independent

January 1, 2014
The country accounts for 70 per cent of global ivory demand, but awareness is growing

Shopkeepers hunch over takeaway boxes at Beijing’s Dongfangbobao Market as sporadic lunchtime visitors wander between displays of jade, gold, bronze and bone curios. The market’s sleepy air belies its past as a dependable source of illegal ivory. Enquiries for “elephant teeth,” as it is known in Chinese, are now met with dismissive waves.

Antique dealer Ren Wenzhuo produces an intricately carved pendant from a glass display case before retrieving three more trinkets from a locked safe, each costing between 6,000 and 7,000 RMB (£607-708). But these small pieces, one of which allegedly dates from the 18th century, are of little concern to Chinese authorities. It is newly smuggled items that directly contribute to the decimation of Africa’s elephant population.

“We used to sell new ivory here but not any more,” says Ren. “Haven’t you seen the news? Ivory is like tiger skins; it harms animals.”

Dongfangbobao appears to be one of the latest targets of a reported government crackdown on illegal ivory marked by awareness campaigns in state-owned media, tougher sentences for unlicensed dealers and contraband seizures.

But the capital’s ivory shoppers need not look far for the coveted “white gold.”

Just over a mile north at Beijing Curio City, customers can find celestial scenes, imperial ships, and herds of water buffaloes carved from full-length elephant tusks. Accreditation certificates hang on the walls and each piece comes with a registration number.

By legitimising the sale of ivory sourced from natural elephant deaths, culls and police seizures, the registration system was introduced in 2004 to cut prices and profits in the black market. It has had the reverse effect. The wholesale price of ivory has tripled over the last nine years.

Legal retailers regularly use their businesses as a cover for unlawful sales. An investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2011 found that almost 60 percent of authorised sellers and carving factories were involved in some form of laundering. Vendors regularly discourage customers from taking products’ identity cards and reuse them with illicit items.

Conservationists believe that the very existence of a licensed trade only serves to fuel demand in China, where ivory carving is considered a traditional art form. Revered as a status symbol by the country’s growing middle classes, ivory is also seen as a lucrative bet for investors facing diminishing returns on equity and real estate.

While the international ban in 1989 is widely credited with curtailing trade in the West, China is now the largest ivory market in the world and accounts for an estimated 70 per cent of global demand.

Its continued popularity may stem from a lack of knowledge about the scale and environmental impact of the trade, according to WildAid, the wildlife protection group behind a new awareness campaign. The organisation is using high-profile figures to highlight poaching and the quantity of illegal products in the Chinese market.

Fronting the campaign is former NBA basketball player and Olympic flag bearer Yao Ming, whose public influence in the recent campaign against shark fin soup has been widely lauded.

The drive appears to have yielded remarkable results. During this year’s Spring Festival, when shark fin soup is commonly eaten, the Chinese Commerce Ministry reported a 70 per cent drop in consumption compared with the previous year.

This success sets an encouraging precedent for ivory campaigners, according to WildAid’s chief representative in China, May Mei.

“Things move so quickly in China and as we are seeing with shark fin, it is possible to make a completely desirable product quickly unfashionable,” she says.

Mei also credits a government ban on the soup at official banquets with the turnaround in demand.

“If the government takes a strong stance on ivory, such as announcing no further legal imports or announcing a ban [on] officials giving ivory as gifts, the impact will be enormous,” she argues.

There have been promising signs from Chinese authorities. In the first conviction of its kind, a court in Fujian Province sentenced a licensed dealer found importing and selling illegal products to 15 years in prison in May.

Moves to curb illegal sales on unregulated online marketplaces have also seen the government ban all online wildlife trade and monitor key search terms. Conservation groups are working with search engine giant Baidu to purge illegal wildlife listings and shut down forums that facilitate black-market trade.

But with as many as 100 African elephants killed a day, attempts to tame this vast and elusive industry remain frustratingly, and perhaps fatally, slow. Although Illegal ivory is shrinking from view in markets like Dongfangbobao, its place in Chinese consumers’ eyes continues to pose the single greatest threat to the species’ survival.

The Ivory Trade Is Out of Control, and China Needs to Do More to Stop It

Per Liljas, Time Magazine

Nov. 01, 2013
Around 100 African elephants are being slaughtered daily just so people can carve ridiculous ornaments from their tusks
Ride the subway in a Chinese metropolis like Beijing or Shanghai and chances are you’ll come across an ad depicting mutilated Chinese characters.Xiang, the first character, means elephant, except that lacking some strokes, it is as if the animal is missing the tusks. The  second and third characters stand for tiger and bear — but the missing strokes make them seem to be losing bones and gall bladder. The fourth and last character, ren, or human, is cut in half.

The ad is intended to stifle demand for the body parts of these wild animals, which in China are commonly thought to possess naturopathic benefits (or, in the case of ivory, ornamental ones). The market has soared on the back of the country’s growing wealth, and that has been a disaster for the most sought-after animals.

This year has been particularly dark, especially for ivory, the trade in which has been banned since 1989 by an international treaty. In Africa, around 100 elephants are being killed every day, by poisoning, machine guns or rocket-propelled grenade launchers fired from the ground or helicopters. Such poaching is feeding terrorist groups like al-Shabab, who conducted the deadly assault on the Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in late September.

In Hong Kong, one of the trade’s main transit points, seizures of ivory have climbed alarmingly high, from 2,900 kg for the whole of 2010 to 7,200 kg seized from the start of 2013 to mid-October. This grim haul so far this year amounts to 3,349 tusks respectively, or the equivalent of almost 1,675 dead elephants.

Part of the problem is that many Chinese are unaware that killing is involved. “The Chinese word for ivory, xiangya, literally means elephant’s teeth,” says Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “It has led to a very deep and wide misconception that ivory can be harvested without killing elephants.”

In a 2007 survey, the IFAW discovered that 70% of Chinese polled did not know that ivory came from dead elephants. This led to the organization’s first ad campaign — a simple poster explaining the actual origins of ivory. A campaign evaluation earlier this year found that the ad, promoted by the world’s largest outdoor advertising company JC Decaux, had been seen by 75% by China’s urban population, and heavily impacted their view on ivory. Among people classified as “high risk” — that is, those likeliest to buy ivory — the proportion who would actually do so after seeing the ad was almost slashed by half.

The IFAW isn’t the only organization trying to raise awareness in China. In one WildAid ad, broadcast in the seatback video sets of Shanghai and Beijing taxis, basketball star Yao Ming blocks bullets fired at elephants.

Tom Milliken, elephant-and-rhino program coordinator at the wildlife-monitoring organization Traffic, says that changing people’s views about ivory is possible. He took an active part in raising awareness of the consequences of the ivory trade in Japan in the 1980s.

“Japan was the largest consumer of ivory in the world, it was the China of its day,” Milliken says. “Thanks to campaigns and celebrities taking a stance, there was a major transformation, and Japan today barely accounts for 1% of its heyday market.”

Some of that market is legal — and that is itself a problem. China has licensed 37 carving factories and 136 retail shops to deal in preprohibition ivory, or ivory sold to the government in a one-off deal in 2008 by the same authority that set up the 1989 ban, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.

Launched as a way to diminish the demand for illegal ivory, that sale of 50 tons of ivory from African stockpiles has been criticized for having the exact opposite effect. One reason is that it has confused the Chinese over the illegality of ivory consumption. Another is that it has made the task of distinguishing legal ivory from illegal almost impossible. Others say that the Chinese government’s decision to ration the release of legal ivory over several years, and sell it at vastly increased prices, has simply sustained demand for the illegal kind.

“According to one factory that I spoke to, the legal releases only last for one month,” says Gabriel at IFAW. “The other months, they have to use illegal ivory.”

Colman O’Criodain, policy analyst in international wildlife trade at WWF, says, “Messages such as ‘Don’t buy it because it’s illegal’ or ‘Don’t buy it because you are killing elephants’ don’t necessarily work with hard-core consumers, who see these messages as increasing the cachet of the product.”

Many of these type of consumers have moved onto the Internet, where the IFAW has been working with the government and popular Internet forums and marketplaces such as Baidu and Alibaba to screen for keywords such as ivory or tusks. But as soon as one word is banned, a synonym pops up, such as “blood tooth” or “African white plastic.”

“Sometimes we feel that what we’re doing is just a drop in the bucket,” says Gilbert.

Over the past few years, Chinese authorities have beefed up both customs and law enforcement to tackle the illegal trade. Earlier this year, a licensed ivory trader was sentenced to 15 years in prison for smuggling several tons of ivory from eastern Africa. Recent purges of big-spending corrupt officials also provide a hope of reducing the demand for ivory. Milliken at Traffic would like to see China taking a more active role in the African continent too, where Chinese nationals to a large extent are directing the trafficking.

“When Chinese individuals are arrested in Africa, and it happens all the time nowadays, they suddenly speak no English or local languages. Their computers are confiscated, but because the data is in Chinese, there is little scope for intelligence. If Chinese law enforcement would work with their counterparts in Africa, a vast amount of information could be gleaned.”

Never mind the stroke for tooth. If the Chinese authorities don’t act fast, we could be heading toward a future when we won’t be needing the other strokes in the character xiang either.

Shark Fin Victory May Offer Hope for Elephants

China Digital Times
October 22, 2013

On the China in Africa Podcast, Eric Olander, Cobus van Staden and Huang Hongxiang gloomily discuss prospects for decisive action from Beijing to stop the Chinese-fueled slaughter of elephants for ivory. The problem, Huang suggests, is that the issue has yet to gain momentum among the public.

At The Washington Post, though, Simon Denyer highlights a collapse in demand for shark fins following concerted campaigning and a government crackdown on ostentatious official banquets. This success may yet offer hope for Africa’s elephants.

“People said it was impossible to change China, but the evidence we are now getting says consumption of shark fin soup in China is down by 50 to 70 percent in the last two years,” said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, a San Francisco-based group that has promoted awareness about the shark trade. The drop is also reflected in government and industry statistics.

“It is a myth that people in Asia don’t care about wildlife,” Knights said. “Consumption is based on ignorance rather than malice. ”

[…] Buoyed by the results of the shark fin campaign, conservationists are now turning their attention to the trade in ivory and rhino horn. Some 25,000 elephants were poached last year, and 668 rhinos killed in South Africa alone, with China the largest market for ivory, and the second largest for rhino horn behind Vietnam.

[… A]ttitudes can change, and the Chinese government is not intransigent. A major investor in Africa, it does not want to be seen as the reason for widespread insecurity caused by poaching. In September, it started sending text messages to every Chinese cellphone user who touched down in Kenya, warning them to “not carry illegal ivory, rhino horn or any other wildlife.“

How to end the elephant slaughter

By Cristian Samper, Patrick Bergin, Peter Seligmann, Azzedine Downes, and Carter Roberts, CNN
September 27, 2013

(CNN) — Dzanga Bai is a magical place of natural wonder. It is on the Central African Republic’s southwest border with the Republic of Congo and is widely considered the most important gathering place for forest elephants in the entire Congo basin. For decades — and probably centuries — elephants by the hundreds from across the region have congregated there, reconnecting with family members and drinking the mineral-rich waters.

Last May, a group of heavily armed men, believed to be linked to the Seleka rebel group, entered Dzanga Bai and slaughtered a reported two dozen elephants.

By the time Dzanga Bai’s elephant carcasses were discovered, the perpetrators were gone, leaving in their wake a horrific crime scene of heads carved up for their precious ivory. Tusks like these, typically destined for Asian markets, where growing demand has quickly driven up prices, have in recent years presented a new opportunity for quick cash to finance the operations of armed gangs from the Central African Republic east to Somalia. It is now widely understood that groups ranging from Darfur’s Janjaweed to Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army have turned to this revenue source.

“The devastating poaching crisis that has gripped Africa over the past decade has left multiple tragedies in its wake…”
The growth of these groups, with funds from illegal wildlife trafficking, is destabilizing African governments even as it devastates populations of elephants, rhinos and other high value wildlife. Operating through terror and intimidation, roving rebel armies undermine democratic governance and responsible resource management while devastating regional economies through disruptions to tourism and local livelihoods.

In meetings in the United States, Asia and Africa this year, we have listened as leaders have shared their growing anxiety. The new poachers are tied to criminal syndicates. Rifles and machetes have been enhanced or replaced with helicopters, night visions goggles, sophisticated telecommunications and automatic weapons. Local communities are terrified and national governments fear losing large swaths of territory to these gangs.

Out of these conversations has emerged a challenge to the world—from African nations–to stop buying ivory. Representatives of the governments of Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda, along with the international nongovernmental organizations we represent, have gathered in New York this week to announce an important commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative. Together, we have three straightforward goals: (1) stop the killing; (2) stop the trafficking; and (3) stop the demand.

To stop the killing and the trafficking, the international community can help states that make up the present range of the African elephant by providing equipment, training and expertise. President Obama recently dedicated $10 million for law enforcement efforts and the creation of a wildlife trafficking task force at the highest levels of the U.S. government, complementing existing U.S. initiatives. European and other nations, along with private citizens, need to join him in committing emergency resources to enforcement efforts in elephant landscapes and ivory trafficking ports.

Despite a ban on international trade in ivory imposed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1989, domestic sales remain legal in a number of countries, including the United States. Because these legal markets can provide a front for laundering illegal ivory into the trade, moratoria on domestic sales of ivory are also a vital part of anti-trafficking efforts.

Stopping the demand requires new strategies. Removing the prestige associated with buying ivory requires creative new uses of social media and other tools to change consumption behavior in China and elsewhere. Once the demand for ivory is curtailed there will be little financial incentive for criminal groups to continue elephant poaching and trafficking.

Yet because carved ivory is a centuries-old cultural tradition, this change will take time — something the world’s dwindling elephant populations don’t have. That is why African nations with the greatest remaining elephant populations have begun to call for nations across the globe to stop selling and purchasing ivory until all African elephant populations have recovered to healthy levels.

The devastating poaching crisis that has gripped Africa over the past decade has left multiple tragedies in its wake: the loss of roughly three-quarters of all remaining African forest elephants; the murder of hundreds of courageous wildlife guards; regional government resources stretched to their limits as villagers across sub-Saharan Africa live in daily terror.

The initiative launched this week by representatives of elephant range states, ivory consumer nations, and our organizations has been endorsed by an unprecedented group of conservation partners that include the African Parks Network, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Freeland Foundation, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, National Geographic, Save the Elephants, TRAFFIC, WildAid, and Wildlife Direct.

This effort is our best bet at saving these majestic, highly intelligent and socially complex creatures while bringing much-needed stability to governments whose hopes for a brighter future require that armed gangs no longer operate within their borders. Before it’s too late, let’s stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand.

Editor’s note: Cristián Samper is the president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Patrick Bergin is the president and CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation; Peter Seligmann is chairman and CEO of Conservation International; Azzedine Downes is the president and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare; and Carter Roberts is the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund

Time for a Hong Kong tusk force to combat illegal ivory trade (China)

Anna Beech, South China Morning Post
06 September, 2013

China is the largest consumer of ivory and its demand is bringing the African and Asian elephants to the point of extinction. According to the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency, all wild elephants will be wiped out in the next five to 10 years if poaching and habitat loss continue at the present rate.

Hong Kong has a vital role in all this. A report to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) says that Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Hong Kong accounted for 60 per cent of large-scale seizures since 2009, totalling 41.1 tonnes. As both a demand city and also one of the largest transit points where elephant parts are redirected elsewhere, usually mainland China, Hong Kong is at the forefront of this battle to halt the ivory trade.

What can be done to save the elephant? CITES was developed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Yet despite a consensus about the threatened status of elephants, CITES has failed to prevent their wholesale slaughter or dampened the motivation for their trade.

Hong Kong has the requisite system in place to intercept illegally traded wildlife and, by law, the Customs and Excise Department is obliged to check that elephants and elephant parts are not illegally traded and handled through its ports. However, many would argue the scale of the operation to enforce these requirements is too small.

The nature of the ivory trade adds to the complexity in enforcement. Much like the illegal trade in narcotics, counterfeits and human trafficking, the global ivory trade is controlled by organised crime syndicates, often using similar trade routes. From the initial poaching of the elephant, transport by air or sea, to handling by dealers and sale in the destination country, the process is highly organised and requires a degree of complicity from corrupt park officials, the police and customs officers.

This makes catching illegal traders and prosecuting offenders extremely difficult, and fudged permit declarations hard to trace. Despite the interception of a number of big ivory shipments in recent years, enforcement in Hong Kong needs to be scaled up to more adequately address the problem.

Better surveillance and use of technology are crucial, and the establishment of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime should help key transit ports like Hong Kong co-operate and share intelligence with authorities from other demand, transit and source countries.

We need an equally heavy focus on the demand side. Environmental non-governmental organisations and campaign groups in Hong Kong and mainland China need to focus on communicating the realities and consequences of the ivory trade to consumers.

WildAid, a US-based NGO, has been running TV and social media campaigns in China to stem the trade in different species, including a prominent shark fin campaign with celebrities such as actor Jackie Chan. Ivory and shark fin consumption have similar connotations of prestige in Chinese society, and campaigns that help to demystify such purchases can make a big difference in driving down demand.