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Richard Branson Visits Vietnam to Save Rhinos

Happy World Rhino Day!

On his first-ever visit to Vietnam, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson recently met with some of the nation’s top business leaders as part of our Stop Using Rhino Horn campaign, which seeks to counter myths of rhino horn’s medicinal benefits as well as to educate the Vietnamese public about the poaching crisis in Africa.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Branson hosted an intimate dinner organized by several non-governmental organizations including WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society and CHANGE, and in collaboration with Virgin Unite, Nhip Cau Dau Tu magazine and The Reverie Saigon. During the event, business leaders signed a pledge in which they committed to never buy, use or gift rhino horn.

The signed pledge reads as follows: 

We hereby pledge: 

1. To lead by example in developing sustainable and socially responsible business practices.

2. Not to purchase, possess or give as gifts any illegal wildlife products, such as rhino horn.

3. To encourage friends, family and employees never to purchase any illegal wildlife products.

4. To support efforts to conserve Vietnam's rich natural heritage and protect wildlife. 

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Reflecting on World Rhino Day, 2015

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.

As WildAid CEO Peter Knights and WildAid South Africa campaign chief Adam Welz explain in a recent op-ed:   

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.

California State Senate Passes Ivory Ban Bill

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.

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Thailand Destroys Over 2 Tons of Ivory

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. 

'On Sharks & Humanity' Opens in Beijing

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.”

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