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Obama Proposes Strict Rules on US Ivory Trade

On the occasion of his historic trip to East Africa, President Obama pledged stronger measures to end ivory sales in the United States, widely considered to be the world’s second largest market after China.

"Our countries are also close partners in the fight against poachers and traffickers that threaten Kenya's world-famous wildlife," Obama said during a Saturday press conference alongside President Kenyatta of Kenya. "The United States has a ban already on the commercial import of elephant ivory. I can announce we're proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines, which will eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States," while further restricting imports and exports, the President said.

Under current federal law, ivory can be sold legally across state lines if it was imported prior to January 18, 1990, the date when African elephants were officially listed under CITES Appendix I — the greatest level of international protection for threatened and endangered species such as gorillas, tigers and giant pandas. The seller is obligated to prove that ivory was imported before 1990. 

But under the new proposed rule, ivory can be sold across state lines only if:

• An item is an antique exempted under the Endangered Species Act, and is at least 100 years old, among other criteria;


• The item contains only a small amount of ivory — specifically under 200 grams — that was acquired prior to 1990. Musical instruments, firearms and some furniture pieces could fall under this exempted category. 

'Saving Africa's Giants with Yao Ming' Nominated for an Emmy Award

We're thrilled to announce that Saving Africa's Giants with Yao Ming has been nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award!

This one-hour special that premiered in November on Animal Planet was nominated for Outstanding Nature Programming alongside PBS — for Ireland's Wild River, Snow Monkeys and Touching the Wild — and National Geographic Wild, for Wild Hawaii. WildAid CEO Peter Knights and Animal Planet's Erin Wanner share executive producer credits on the film. 

Yao Ming has been one of WildAid's most influential ambassadors for nearly a decade. In Saving Africa's Giants, WildAid and Yao joined forces and traveled to Africa to educate consumers about the perilous state of rhinos and elephants. The film is narrated by Edward Norton and features the work of WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation, Save the Elephants, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Daphne Sheldrick and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Dr. Will Fowlds, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Tusk Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service and South African National Parks.

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Hong Kong: World’s Ivory Sales Capital

Hong Kong's ivory market is booming thanks to an influx of tourists seeking luxury items — and that's impeding international efforts to end Africa’s elephant poaching crisis, according to a new report released Wednesday by Save the Elephants.

A survey of 72 Hong Kong retail outlets found nearly 31,000 ivory items displayed for sale, with jewelry the most popular item followed by figurines. Vendors estimated that 90% of customers were tourists from mainland China. 

“No other city surveyed has so many pieces of ivory on sale as Hong Kong,” report co-author Esmond Martin said in a statement. “With higher taxes on the mainland, Hong Kong has become a cheaper place to buy ivory. With 40 million people crossing the border between the territories every year and controls lax, there’s little chance of their getting caught.”

Licensed vendors can legally sell ivory products obtained prior to 1990 when an international ban on ivory imports went into effect. But the city's licensing system has been roundly condemned as ineffective, allowing for the sale of illegal ivory from recently poached elephants.  

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Protecting the Galápagos from Illegal Fishing

At 51,000 square miles, Ecuador’s Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. Due to its isolation, over 20% of the terrestrial and marine species in the Galápagos Islands are found nowhere else on earth. 

Sadly, it’s also a hotbed for illegal fishing activity that threatens the archipelago’s biodiversity. WildAid estimates that at any given time, there are between 1-5 commercial vessels fishing around the GMR, with illegal take of sea cucumber, lobster, and several species of tuna, shark and billfish.

Ecuadorian commercial longliners from the continent are the primary threat to the Galápagos, with crews often towing smaller boats that enter the reserve. (Costa Rican and Colombian fishermen pose a threat as well.) We also estimate that some operations are tied to organized crime: Contraband includes narcotics, shark fin and fuel, which is heavily subsidized by the Ecuadorian government and is sold at sea. 

Working in cooperation with the Galápagos National Park Service and partners, WildAid aims to make this reserve the best-protected marine reserve in the developing world.

Recently, we partnered with colleagues at World Wildlife Fund to conduct a three-day operations and marine enforcement training with over 40 wardens from the Galápagos as well as continental protected areas such as Machalilla, Pacoche and Santa Clara.

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This Shark Week, a Call for Conservation

With Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week in full swing, it's a good time for us all to remember these facts:

• An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year, with fins from up to 73 million used for shark fin soup. 

• Some shark populations have declined by up to 98% over the past 15 years.

• Nearly one-third of open-ocean shark species are considered threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

• As apex predators, sharks are vital to maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. These animals should be celebrated, not slaughtered. 

What is WildAid doing to end the shark fin trade? 

To measurably raise awareness and concern about the impact of the consumption of shark fin soup on shark populations and marine biodiversity, WildAid works with media network partners in China to broadcast our campaign messages via TV and other media outlets, including video billboards in subway and train stations, airports, and university campuses. We have produced many high-quality TV PSAs on shark fin for China with our celebrity ambassadors Yao Ming and others, including prominent Chinese CEOs. WildAid's latest campaign features several PSAs including sports icon David Beckham, actor/director Jiang Wen and actress Maggie Q.

Our campaigns, in combination with government bans at official events, have contributed to a reported 50%-70% decrease in China’s shark fin consumption.

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