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Elephants

'Ivory Queen' Arrested in Tanzania, Accused of Running Major Smuggling Ring

An alleged ivory magnate has been arrested and charged with smuggling tusks worth nearly $2.5 million in Tanzania, where rampant poaching in recent years has devastated the nation’s elephant population.

Yang Feng Glan, a 66-year-old Chinese national reportedly known as the “Ivory Queen,” is accused of being a crucial link between poaching syndicates in East Africa and buyers in China and other nations. News of her Wednesday arrest was first reported by Elephant Action League.

"Tanzania has had the most serious elephant poaching of any country in recent years with few prosecutions, so this is an important case," said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. "But as well as arresting the smugglers, corrupt officials who enable this trade need to be prosecuted."

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Success! California Passes Anti-Ivory Bill

On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown made history by signing into law AB 96, crucial legislation that if successfully enforced will shutter the ivory and rhino horn trade in the Golden State! 

Though California has long restricted the ivory trade, carvings and other ivory products imported before 1977 have been legal to sell. As a result, the state’s ivory 
market has provided a cover for the laundering of ivory from recently poached elephants, as legal markets do in Hong Kong and other ivory trading hubs around the world. 

"With the passage of AB 96, California is leading by example in making the ivory and rhino horn trade a thing of the past," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said of Gov. Brown's signing of the bill, co-authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Ricardo Lara. "The new law will make enforcement a far easier matter and sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that ivory and rhino horn have no value here. We thank Governor Brown for his support and call on all US states to join California, New York and New Jersey in banning this destructive trade." 

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US and China Agree to Halt Ivory Trade

WASHINGTON (Sept. 25, 2015) — In a historic accord to save Africa’s elephants from rempant poaching, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to ban ivory sales in the United States and China.

The announcement marks the first public commitment by President Xi to end ivory sales in China, the world’s largest market, and follows a pledge made by Chinese officials in May to phase out the domestic trade. It also puts heavy pressure on Hong Kong, a global hub for commercial ivory, to ban its legal trade — one that has provided cover for smuggling and illicit sales of ivory from African elephants poached in recent years.

A White House fact sheet released Friday confirms the agreement, full text below:  

Wildlife Trafficking: The United States and China, recognizing the importance and urgency of combating wildlife trafficking, commit to take positive measures to address this global challenge. The United States and China commit to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.  The two sides decided to further cooperate in joint training, technical exchanges, information sharing, and public education on combating wildlife trafficking, and enhance international law enforcement cooperation in this field. The United States and China decided to cooperate with other nations in a comprehensive effort to combat wildlife trafficking. 

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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. 

Tanzania: Poaching Threatens Tourism Industry Growth

Poaching in Tanzania is threatening to undermine the East African nation’s growing tourism economy, one otherwise poised to add hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years. 

Adelham Meru, Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, warns that poaching could affect as many as 3.8 million tourism jobs across Africa, including guides, drivers, and hotel and restaurant staff. 

All Africa reports: 

Tanzania, like many African nations, has been hard hit by poaching over the past decade. Last year a survey revealed that the country had lost more than half its elephants, with populations declining from 110,000 in 2009 to fewer than 44,000. Tanzania's iconic giraffes, the country's national symbol, have also suffered, as has much of its other wildlife. 

While poachers are profiting from these beloved species, tourism could suffer. Meru said Tanzania has 700,000 tourism-related jobs and predicts that number could double, but only if "the ongoing rampant killings of wildlife" stops. "If the current situation will remain unattended, these jobs would vanish in air," he said[.]

Leading Voice Against Hong Kong Ivory Trade Visits Africa

Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat, a leading voice for dismantling one of the world's biggest commercial ivory markets, is currently in Africa to engage in field studies and talks with officials in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. This is Quat’s second visit to Africa in less than a year at the invitation of WildAid and partner conservation groups. On this trip, she recently met with Richard Bonham, head of the conservation group Big Life Foundation founded by photographer Nick Brandt, to discuss the elephant and rhino poaching crisis embroiling the continent.

Upon arriving in Kenya, Quat was informed about the latest brazen poaching incident: On the morning of July 28, a patrol team found the bodies of five poached elephants — a mother and four offspring — in Tsavo West National Park. Two suspects have since been arrested.  

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WildAid Joins US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance

WildAid is proud to be an NGO member of the new United States Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, announced by the White House on Wednesday. 

This partnership has three primary objectives:

  • Raise the public’s awareness of the scope of the wildlife trafficking crisis, including the illegal trade’s devastating impact on 
    elephants, rhinos, tigers and other irreplaceable species, and illegal traffickers’ role in funding global corruption and terrorism;
  • Reduce consumer demand for wildlife and wildlife products (WildAid’s core organizational mission); and
  • Mobilize companies to adopt best practices to insure that their goods and services are not being utilized by illegal wildlife traffickers, and to assist in raising public awareness and reducing demand.

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Letter from Thailand: A Sneak Preview of Tony Jaa for #IvoryFree

Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa, internationally known from his leading roles in Furious 7 and Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, is giving a sneak preview of his new role as Thailand's first ambassador for the Ivory Free campaign, a joint venture between WildAid and our conservation partners.  

International passengers arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport can catch Jaa’s #IvoryFree billboard at Concourse C, alongside fellow WildAid ambassadors Prince William, David Beckham and Yao Ming.

Jaa grew up in Thailand’s northeastern province of Surin, where his family raised elephants. He is urging locals and tourists alike not to buy ivory, as it's illegal to transport any ivory products, even small pieces, out of Thailand. 

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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;

or:

• 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. 

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