Last week, the status quo in Hong Kong was disrupted.
On Thursday, December 3, lawmakers gathered from across the political spectrum in Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) to unanimously pass a motion calling on the Hong Kong government to strengthen the fight against wildlife crime and to legislate for a commercial ban on ivory trading. Although non-binding, the historic motion was passed by 37 out of 38 legislators present, with no 'No' votes or abstentions. It marked a rare display of unity in Hong Kong's polarized, post-Occupy/Umbrella movement political landscape.
Over the past few weeks, global public opinion has shifted rapidly towards the realization that ivory bans are desperately needed if the world's last remaining elephants are to be saved from extinction. The lawmakers' vote comes just a matter of weeks after the high-level announcement made at The White House by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama to "take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory." Most recently, Pope Francis also condemned ivory trafficking during his visit to Kenya.
So what does this milestone actually mean for Hong Kong? Unfortunately, the motion debate was not a bill, and as mentioned, it also was non-binding. What it does do is back the Hong Kong government into a corner by making it extremely difficult for the government to further delay; Hong Kong's Chief Executive CY Leung and officials at the government's Environment Bureau must act now.
As you can see in the time-lapsed video above, Chen Yingjie, a prominent local street artist committed to wildlife conservation, painted "Blue Dream" in the weeks leading up to China’s National Aquatic Wildlife Protection Awareness Month.
Last month, WildAid’s Chief China Representative, May Mei, unveiled the mural at an event in Guangzhou, one of China's largest cities, alongside prominent fisheries and agriculture officials, such as Director General of Fishery Monitoring Department of Agriculture Ministry Li Yanliang, Deputy Director of Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Marine and Fisheries Li Zhiquan, and Director of Resource and Environment Department of Fishery Zhao Yimin.
Measuring about 40 ft. x 14 ft, the mural will be displayed in various Guangzhou locations over the next year, including shopping mall squares and art zones. The mural will be further represented as 42 billboards throughout the Guangzhou subway system, with the message "Protect mantas: Say no to peng yu sai."
Elephant ivory is plummeting in value throughout China, according to new data released Monday by Save the Elephants. Despite soaring prices for illegal ivory from 2010 to 2014, researchers Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne report that raw ivory prices in China have fallen by half over the past 18 months — from $2,100 (USD) per kilogram to $1,100.
In their survey of eight Chinese cities, the researchers observed that consumer demand for ivory is in apparent free-fall. China’s ivory carving factories reported a severe shortage in tusks, and government-issued IDs required to legally sell ivory had been delayed. Save the Elephants will publish Martin and Vigne’s full findings next month.
The new data coincides with broader awareness and changing attitudes in China, where public knowledge of Africa’s elephant-poaching crisis doubled from 2012 to 2014, according to a March report by WildAid, Save the Elephants and African Wildlife Foundation. At the same time, the Chinese government has made progressive steps to control the illegal ivory market, culminating in President Xi Jinping’s September announcement that China and the United States would work together to halt the ivory trade.
Of the handful of locations that account for the majority of manta fishers, the central Indonesian village of Lamakera is at the top and is considered the world’s largest manta fishing site. Villagers here have conducted traditional manta hunts for many generations, but with the arrival of the gill plate trade in the early 2000s, the community converted to diesel engines and transformed to a full-scale commercial fishery, landing over 1,000 mantas in a single season.
Since then, the fishing intensity has only increased, sending the manta population into a downward spiral. Having documented this grisly hunt, we wondered how could we possibly mobilize action to save this vanishing species before it was too late? We had to act but needed international and domestic support first to make it happen.
This week we were exhilarated to see the worldwide premiere of Racing Extinctionon Discovery.
The film is the latest work from director Louie Psihoyos, who won an Academy Award for Best Documentary with The Cove in 2009. We're proud and humbled that our shark and manta campaigns are featured in the new film, which documents and exposes the worst of the illegal wildlife trade — a multibillion-dollar global enterprise that threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and countless marine species.