WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation applaud China’s decision to destroy an estimated 6 tons of confiscated ivory in the city of Dongguan, near Guangzhou today. 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, reduce the demand for ivory, and protect endangered wildlife.
“Today’s ivory crush is a significant step in raising public awareness and will hopefully lead to similar events throughout China,” said Yao Ming, who, alongside The Duke of Cambridge and David Beckham, will appear in a public service message to be broadcast by China’s leading television stations beginning this month.
China’s rapid economic development continues to build a burgeoning middle class that can afford—and is demanding in greater quantities— endangered wildlife products, such as ivory. The current demand for ivory is estimated to claim the lives of as many as 35,000 African elephants annually.
“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 the African Wildlife Foundation, 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 combatting the illegal trade in ivory,” said African Wildlife Foundation 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.”
Recent surveys indicate a large portion of China’s population is unaware of the death toll to create ivory and rhino horn products, yet a greater number of residents support government enforced bans. (Read the ivory and rhino horn surveys.)
“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.