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Martial Arts Actor Tony Jaa Leads New 'Ivory Free' Thailand Campaign

 WildAid and WWF-Thailand representatives with Tony Jaa (center) at the June 13 launch in Bangkok

BANGKOK (14 June 2016) — International martial arts actor Tony Jaa (Furious 7Ong-Bak 3) and Thai National Football Team Coach Zico” Kiatisuk Senamuang will lead an all-star team of celebrity ambassadors calling for an end to Thailand’s ivory trade, one of the world’s largest. 

The new campaign, created by WildAid and WWF-Thailand and launched Monday, highlights the impact of the Thai ivory trade on elephant poaching in Africa, where an estimated 33,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks. Public service announcements and print billboards will be widely distributed throughout the country, from BTS SkyTrain stations in Bangkok to several national TV channels and multiple social media platforms. WATCH: Tony Jaa’s new PSA for WildAid and WWF-ThailandThis PSA was produced by WildAid with the support of WWF, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants. 

The ivory trade has been banned in the United States, and proposed bans in China and Hong Kong are in motion, leaving Thailand alongside Japan as the largest remaining markets. Thailand also plays a key role as a transit point for smuggled ivory: Current Thai law allows trading of ivory from domesticated Thai elephants, but conservationists are concerned that illegal African ivory is laundered through this loophole.  

Thailand made several major illegal ivory seizures last year: Since October 2015, Thai customs has made four seizures of ivory originating from Africa, totaling more than 800 kilograms. The latest seizure in April 2016 was more than 300 kilograms. 

“With historic announcements from the US, China and Hong Kong to shut down their ivory markets, the time has come for Thailand to join the herd and do its part to save Africa’s elephants,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.

Support Kenya: Watch The Ivory Burn Live on April 30

On Saturday, April 30, Kenya Wildlife Service will host the largest ivory burn in history — a bold statement against elephant poaching, and one we hope will mark the beginning of the end for the global ivory trade, which kills an estimated 33,000 elephants every year.

WildAid will be bringing these historic events to a worldwide audience through social media, and we invite you to watch it live.

Our coverage of the event will be carried live via Twitter on Saturday at 3pm in Nairobi (8am in New York), with highlights posted throughout the weekend. In China, WildAid’s Beijing-based team will also be hosting a live mobile stream of The Ivory Burn, as well as projecting a message of support to Kenya onto one of the largest video screens in the world, located in Shanghai’s Bund district.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Reaffirms Ivory Ban Support

Today, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying met with a delegation of elephant conservation activists and a group of schoolchildren who hand-delivered a thank you card, commending Leung for his January 2016 policy address where he called for a phase-out of the local ivory trade, one of the world's largest.

WildAid, WWF-Hong Kong and Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat have been leading efforts in the city to combat wildlife trafficking and to oppose the legal ivory trade. Together, we've been working in close cooperation with Hong Kong Under Secretary for the Environment Christine Loh to drive this urgent policy change. Banning the ivory trade will reduce consumer demand for ivory carvings and other products, and will have a positive impact on African elephant populations as poaching rates decline. 

Yoyo Wong, a five-year-old kindergarten student from Tuen Mun who was at the informal event, said, “Chief Executive, thank you for pledging to save the elephants in Africa. I want to see elephants when I grow up, so please work faster to ban the ivory trade!”

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With Historic Vote, Hong Kong Ivory Trade Losing Support

Last week, the status quo in Hong Kong was disrupted.

On Thursday, December 3, lawmakers gathered from across the political spectrum in Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) to unanimously pass a motion calling on the Hong Kong government to strengthen the fight against wildlife crime and to legislate for a commercial ban on ivory trading. Although non-binding, the historic motion was passed by 37 out of 38 legislators present, with no 'No' votes or abstentions. It marked a rare display of unity in Hong Kong's polarized, post-Occupy/Umbrella movement political landscape.

Over the past few weeks, global public opinion has shifted rapidly towards the realization that ivory bans are desperately needed if the world's last remaining elephants are to be saved from extinction. The lawmakers' vote comes just a matter of weeks after the high-level announcement made at The White House by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama to "take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory." Most recently, Pope Francis also condemned ivory trafficking during his visit to Kenya.

So what does this milestone actually mean for Hong Kong? Unfortunately, the motion debate was not a bill, and as mentioned, it also was non-binding. What it does do is back the Hong Kong government into a corner by making it extremely difficult for the government to further delay; Hong Kong's Chief Executive CY Leung and officials at the government's Environment Bureau must act now.

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Elephant Ivory Prices Plummeting in China, Experts Report

Elephant ivory is plummeting in value throughout China, according to new data released Monday by Save the Elephants. Despite soaring prices for illegal ivory from 2010 to 2014, researchers Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne report that raw ivory prices in China have fallen by half over the past 18 months — from $2,100 (USD) per kilogram to $1,100. 

In their survey of eight Chinese cities, the researchers observed that consumer demand for ivory is in apparent free-fall. China’s ivory carving factories reported a severe shortage in tusks, and government-issued IDs required to legally sell ivory had been delayed. Save the Elephants will publish Martin and Vigne’s full findings next month.

The new data coincides with broader awareness and changing attitudes in China, where public knowledge of Africa’s elephant-poaching crisis doubled from 2012 to 2014, according to a March report by WildAid, Save the Elephants and African Wildlife Foundation. At the same time, the Chinese government has made progressive steps to control the illegal ivory market, culminating in President Xi Jinping’s September announcement that China and the United States would work together to halt the ivory trade.

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