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Elephants

Hong Kong Public Supports Ivory Ban

HONG KONG (May 26, 2015) — The Hong Kong public overwhelmingly supports a comprehensive ban on elephant ivory sales, according to a survey by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme released Tuesday. 

The new poll found that 75% of residents interviewed expressed support for outlawing ivory sales, which are currently poorly regulated in Hong Kong. Of those in favor, 55% “very much support” a ban, while 21% “quite support.” Additionally, three-quarters of respondents agreed that the Hong Kong government should stop issuing new ivory possession licenses.

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Recent Spike in Large Seizures of Ivory, Rhino Horn, Pangolin Scales

Over the past two weeks, authorities in multiple countries have arrested smugglers and seized major shipments of illegal wildlife products in Africa and Asia, including rhino horn, elephant ivory and pangolin scales.

The largest such seizure occurred earlier this week in Singapore, where an estimated $6 million in ivory tusks, rhino horn and teeth believed to be from cheetahs and leopards were found stashed in a shipping container filled with bags of tea leaves. 

In each of these six separate cases, the shipments were en route to Vietnam and/or China, or involved smuggling by nationals of those countries.

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'Illicit Ivory' Premieres May 28

On Thursday, May 28, "Illicit Ivory," a documentary by acclaimed environmental investigative series EARTH FOCUS, premieres on Link TV. If you're in Southern California, the show premieres Wednesday, May 27 on KCET.

A captivating examination of the ivory trade's ties to organized crime and insurgent groups, Illicit Ivory features interviews with global experts on the trade, including WildAid CEO Peter Knights. 

Both Link and KCET will stream the show online following the broadcast premiere. 

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Supporting Washington State's Initiative 1401 to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trade

WildAid is proud to support Initiative 1401, a campaign in Washington state to strengthen penalties on the criminal enterprises that buy and sell products made from endangered species.

While most of WildAid’s media messages to combat the illegal wildlife trade are broadcast overseas, the United States remains one of the world’s largest markets for ivory and other products. 

Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, have enacted laws to crack down on intrastate trade. Other state legislation currently is pending, including California’s AB 96 (also endorsed by WildAid), which would close longstanding loopholes that have allowed illegal ivory sales to flourish. 

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Wildlife Groups Urge Japanese PM to Halt Ivory Trade

A walk in the setting sun, photo by Poulomee Basu

With Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the US this week for White House talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as other meetings and events around the country, WildAid has joined a global coalition of conservation groups in calling on the Japanese PM to ban the domestic elephant ivory trade.

Japan has faced criticism in recent years for weak controls over the trade and a proliferation of online sales, with evidence of illegal ivory laundered into the legal domestic market. “Demand for ivory from Japan continues to drive ivory poaching in Africa, and the government must do much more to reduce it," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said. "When the buying stops, the killing can too."

Here's the full coalition letter:

Re: Statement of Concern to Prime Minister Abe of Japan Regarding Japan’s Ivory Trade and the Decimation of Africa’s Forest and Savanna Elephants

Dear Your Excellency Prime Minister Abe:

As a signatory to the London Declaration and the Kasane Statement on Illegal Wildlife Trade, we the undersigned organizations are writing to request that Japan take a leadership role in the fight against the illegal trade in ivory. In light of the global elephant poaching crisis, we respectfully ask you to ban the domestic ivory trade in Japan with immediate effect in order to save Africa’s remaining wild elephants. Our concerns are as follows:

Since 1970, Japan has imported ivory from more than 250,0001 African elephants, much of this from tusks that were illegally acquired through the poaching of wild elephants. Japan has also twice been granted permission to buy ivory despite the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1989 ban on international commercial trade in African elephant ivory, which was adopted in response to the global elephant poaching crisis of the 1970s-80s.2 In 1997, Japan secured CITES-approved ivory sales of nearly 50 tonnes of ivory from Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. In 2008, Japan was allowed to import a further 48 tonnes of ivory. 

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WildAid to Hong Kong: Stop Ivory Imports that Fuel Poaching

To fight the illegal ivory trade that’s fueling an elephant poaching epidemic in Africa, WildAid has joined a coalition of 45 international elephant conservation and animal welfare groups in calling on the Hong Kong Government to stop issuing any new import licenses and re-export licenses for pre-Convention elephant ivory.

What does this mean, and how might this action help save Africa’s elephants?

“Pre-Convention” ivory refers to ivory that was in circulation prior to the 1975 establishment of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The European Union is the primary exporter of alleged pre-Convention ivory, much of it imported by Hong Kong with the ultimate destination being mainland China ivory carving factories. 

But Hong Kong's ivory traders are routinely exploiting legal loopholes in the Hong Kong law which is enabling them to legally import raw and cut elephant tusks from Europe and then launder recently poached ivory taken from illegally-killed elephants into the legal market using government supplied paperwork

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Bills to Rein in U.S. Ivory Trade Have Mixed Results

As author and Nat Geo contributor Laurel Neme writes this week, even sensemaking legislation aimed at saving imperiled wildlife by restricting the elephant ivory and rhino horn trade in the United States can fall victim to political reality.

Following successful efforts last year to effectively ban ivory and rhino horn commercial sales in New York and New Jersey — as well as new federal rules tightening the ivory trade — lawmakers across the country have proposed similar legislation for their respective states. Some bills are moving through the legislative process; others have been diluted or effectively killed, in part by well-funded opposition from the gun lobby.

States such as California are seeking to close loopholes to existing ivory laws that have made it impossible to effectively enforce what’s already on the books.

Under current California law, ivory imported into the state prior to 1977 can be sold legally. But criminals have long exploited the legal market to launder illegal ivory from poached elephants. According to a January report by the National Resources Defense Council, as much as 90% of ivory found in Los Angeles and San Francisco markets was illegal.

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CITES: Elephant Poaching Levels Remain Unsustainable

Elephant poaching levels in Africa continued to outpace natural birth rates for the species in 2014, according to a new report released Monday by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.

CITES’ Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants program estimates that the poaching rate in 2014 remained virtually unchanged compared with 2013 numbers.

While the current level is slightly less than the peak in 2011, elephant populations remain in decline.

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Hong Kong Schoolchildren Lead City’s Largest Ivory Protest

As Hong Kong lawmakers show increasing leadership in calling for an end to the ivory trade, over 100 people took to the streets over the weekend in a peaceful, student-led protest of several ivory retailers — none of whom were displaying valid licenses for their stocks.

WildAid’s Alex Hofford was on hand to film the rally, Hong Kong’s largest to date and the fifth in a series of youth-organized protests in one of the world’s largest ivory markets. Over the past year, four Hong Kong retailers pulled ivory products from their shelves following protests outside their stores. 

The young activists, ages 10 to 12, held placards and shouted slogans on Saturday as they called for members of the public to stop buying elephant ivory and for the Hong Kong government to ban the city's ivory trade. The students from Hong Kong’s ESF Clearwater Bay School, ESF Kennedy School, ESF West Island School and Canadian International School protested several retailers on Hollywood Road and Queen’s Road Central in Sheung Wan district.

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Onward! California Ivory Bill Moves Forward

A California bill that would prohibit nearly all in-state ivory sales cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday, passing out of a state assembly committee on a 10-2 vote.

Experts testifying in support of the bill, AB 96, included WildAid executive director Peter Knights, who told members of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee that the legislation’s passage “sends a clear message that ivory has no value in California.”  Read more...

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