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Maasai Tribesman Leads Hong Kong Ivory Protest

HONG KONG — About 50 people marched noisily through the busy streets of Hong Kong's main ivory trading district of Sheung Wan on Saturday, once again calling on the Hong Kong government to ban the city's out-of-control ivory trade. It is the fifth such street protest in just two years. 

The latest protest was organized by Sean Lee Davies of Project C:Change and Ted Hodgkinson from Hong Kong's The Elephant Society. The star attraction of the protest, billed by Project C:Change as Hong Kong's first “Maasai March,” was Daniel Ole Sambu, a Maasai warrior from Kenya and Predator Protection Programme Coordinator for Big Life Foundation, a Kenya-based NGO that is fighting illegal poaching and habitat destruction.

As Daniel walked amongst the many stores selling ivory, some possibly poached in his own backyard in Tsavo, Kenya, he appeared visibly shaken. According to the South China Morning Post, Daniel said, “It’s horrible because all I see are dead elephants,” Daniel told the South China Morning Post.

A day earlier, WildAid supporter and Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat introduced a measure aimed at stepping up government efforts to combat wildlife crime and to ban the city's ivory trade. If passed by Hong Kong's 70 legislators on Wednesday next week, the measure would make it much more difficult for the Hong Kong government to further drag its feet on the issue, triggering the legislative process towards a domestic ivory sales ban sooner rather than later.

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Pressure Mounts for Hong Kong to Ban Ivory Trade

With the United States and China making public commitments to halt the ivory trade, pressure is mounting fast for Hong Kong to do the same. 

Due to its high overall trade volumes, easy access to mainland China, and lax regulation and supervision, Hong Kong is a global hub for the ivory trade. Licensed vendors can legally sell ivory obtained prior to the 1989 international ban on the commercial ivory trade. But the "legal" market is replenshing its original stock with ivory from recently poached elephants.

Two hard-hitting reports out Wednesday uncover this illicit trade that is fuelling the elephant poaching epidemic in Africa. The Washington Post reports that while American and Chinese pledges to enact near-complete bans is historic, the "spotlight is turning to Hong Kong."

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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[.]

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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Statement Regarding California's AB 96

The following is WildAid's official statement on AB 96, a bill that would strengthen California's ban on ivory that was introduced on January 8, 2015: 

The bill introduced today by California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins would close loopholes that have made it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to enforce California's 40-year-old ban on ivory.

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. With the passage of this bill, California would join New York and New Jersey in closing this loophole and adopting stiffer criminal and civil penalties on the sale of ivory.

WildAid supports AB 96 and encourages California's legislature to join us in our fight to save Africa's remaining elephants before it's too late.

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