Since its founding in 2010, World Rhino Day has been an international cri de coeur for a beloved animal under assault because of consumer demand for its horn. As of August 27, 749 Southern White Rhinos had been poached for their horns this year in South Africa, home to the vast majority of the world’s remaining rhinos. Compare this with the same date a year ago, when a total of 716 had been poached.
Behind South Africa’s rhino-poaching epidemic lies a single, simple thing: the extremely high price some people will pay for rhino horn in Asia. The large amounts of cash handed over in shops and back alleys in Vietnam and China in exchange for small bags of rhino-horn powder, tiny trinkets, necklaces and bracelets — and sometimes whole horns — supports a transnational network of crime that excels at evading controls.
The money buys off Asian customs officials, police and airline staff. It pays for the transport costs of middlemen and mules, who risk arrest carrying horn into Asia from Africa. It covers losses when horn is occasionally confiscated en route. It enriches corrupt African politicians and crime bosses who provide weapons, vehicles and operating expenses for crews of poachers, bribes to court officials to make inconvenient evidence disappear and fees for good lawyers and hitmen. It provides an incentive more powerful than the fear of death to the squads of triggermen who regularly enter rhino reserves despite the presence of armed rangers, police and military units.
It's been a long road for AB 96, a bill to ban the ivory and rhino horn trade in California — but we're almost there.
On Tuesday, Sen. Ricardo Lara brought AB 96 to a floor vote in the state senate, where the legislation quickly passed, 26-13. The bill now needs a concurrence vote from the assembly before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. We are thankful for the leadership of bill author Speaker Toni Atkins as well as Senator Lara, and we urge a swift passage.
For decades, criminals have used the legal trade of ivory imported prior to 1977 in order to launder illegal ivory from Africa, where 33,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year. A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that an overwhelming amount of ivory sold in major markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles is likely illegal.
In a significant show of support for Africa's elephants, Thailand officials crushed over two tons of confiscated ivory on Wednesday, including tusks, carvings and trinkets that were pulverized with a hammer mill and later incinerated.
The nation's first-ever ivory destruction ceremony began with Buddhist and Brahmin faith leaders praying for at least 200 elephants that had been slaughtered for their ivory that was destroyed. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who presided over the ceremony, said the crush would not be a one-off event, and that Thailand is committed to fighting the illegal wildlife trade.
"The destruction of confiscated ivory in Bangkok will not in itself put an end to the illegal trade," CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon said in a statement. "It is, however, ensuring that no one will ever profit from this contraband. When coupled with seizures, prosecution and conviction of offenders, it sends a powerful message that Thailand does not and will not tolerate this illegal trade."
WWF Thailand and Freeland were involved in auditing the ivory stockpile as well as overseeing the destruction process. "This event aligns the commitment of the Thai government and the will of Thai people with the global priority of stopping the illegal ivory trade," said WWF’s Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, who participated in the audit.
We are thrilled to sponsor the Chinese exhibition of On Sharks & Humanity, featuring groundbreaking works from Chinese contemporary artists on behalf of global shark conservation.
Premiering late last week in Beijing, On Sharks & Humanity is the National Museum of China’s first exhibit with an environmental theme, according to WildAid China.
“I decided to use art to represent the concern towards sharks,” said George Wong, Parkview Arts Action’s founder and president who conceived of the exhibit. “I hope that at first people will sympathize with sharks, and then feel disgusted and sick towards the violence that is being exerted against them.”
Good news! On Tuesday evening, UPS, the world's largest package delivery company, tweeted that it has banned shark fin shipments following consultation with World Wildlife Fund. UPS had faced mounting criticism by wildlife groups including WildAid after the Costa Rican NGO Pretoma released evidence of UPS shark fin shipments bound for Hong Kong by way of the United States.