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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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WildAid Report Shows Loopholes in Hong Kong Ivory Regulation

HONG KONG (23 October 2015) — Hong Kong’s “legal” ivory market is willfully obstructing newly announced efforts by China and the United States to end ivory sales, at a time when thousands of African elephants are dying at the hands of poachers, according to a new report released by WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation with accompanying undercover footage provided to the organizations. 

While China and the US have recently pledged landmark commitments to halt the ivory trade, the Hong Kong government has resisted such a move. Officials from Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) continue to insist “the Hong Kong government has strict control mechanism in place over sale of ivory” and is comparable to other nations. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Over several months, investigators uncovered overwhelming evidence of ivory traders flouting licensing regulations with impunity, coaching tourists on how to smuggle purchased ivory, and routinely replenishing legally held ivory stocks with illegal ivory laundered into Hong Kong from recently poached African elephants. Click here to download the full report.

WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation call on the Hong Kong government to ban ivory sales, and to conduct an independent inquiry to address longstanding regulatory loopholes and illegal smuggling.

Prince William Gives Historic Wildlife Address to the Chinese People

In a historic address to the Chinese people, the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) has urged China "to turn the tide of extinction" and reject the illegal wildlife trade that's driving the slaughter of endangered species.  

"I am absolutely convinced that China can become a global leader in the protection of wildlife," Prince William said Monday in remarks to be broadcast on Chinese state TV channel CCTV1. "Your influence in the world means you can change the face of conservation in this century. This will be a contribution that would go down in history, one that your great grandchildren would speak of with great pride."

The address coincides with this week's official state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will be a guest of Buckingham Palace for four days. "[W]e have seen a groundswell of action by governments to improve their laws and to work across borders to fight the traffickers," Prince William said. "Only last month, President Xi announced that China would take steps to halt the domestic trade in ivory, adding to the ban on ivory carving imports he announced in February. But we know the illegal wildlife trade cannot be solved by governments alone. The spotlight falls back on all of us, and on the choices we have to make to play our parts in addressing this problem."

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Elephants Targeted with Cyanide in Zimbabwe

Poachers in Zimbabwe have killed at least 40 elephants in recent weeks using a particularly cruel and efficient method: cyanide poisoning.

The Washington Post reports that poachers have used industrial-grade cyanide to poison watering holes and salt licks favored by elephants in Hwange National Park, a Connecticut-sized reserve located on the border with Botswana. Cyancide-laced oranges have also been used, and species not targeted by poachers were among the victims.

Park rangers found the carcasses of 26 elephants on Tuesday, a week after 14 other animals were found poisoned. No arrests have been made in the case.

“Any person with wildlife at heart would be worried about the method with which these poachers are killing wildlife,” Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, said in an interview with the Post.

'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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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. 

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. 

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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Scenes from the NYC #IvoryCrush

On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) destroyed 1 ton of ivory in New York’s Times Square — a remarkable show of support and solidarity with Africa’s elephants and the people working to stop poaching and the illegal trade. 

WildAid was on hand to witness the destruction of these carvings in a 25-ton rock crusher — check out more photos/video of the event below.

During his remarks, USFWS director Daniel Ashe announced that his agency will be working with WildAid on an upcoming domestic campaign aimed at ending the illegal wildlife trade in the United States. We look forward to working with USFWS and we'll keep you updated on this campaign as it takes shape!

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