Yao billboard at Vientiane’s International Airport

The demand for ivory and the ongoing elephant poaching crisis kills up to 33,000 elephants per year. While many governments around the world have recently banned the domestic sale of ivory, there has been growing concern from wildlife conservation groups that the illegal ivory market in Laos is rapidly increasing. According to a 2017 report from Save The Elephants, the retail ivory market expanded more rapidly between 2013 and 2016 in Laos than in any other country recently surveyed. Mainland Chinese visitors are now buying more than 80% of the ivory seen for sale in Laos where retail prices are considerably lower than in China. The report also mentioned that 13,248 ivory items were found on display for sale, nearly all made to suit Chinese tastes.

This week, WildAid and BlueGrass Design Group Co., Ltd (BDG), a leading outdoor advertising and multidisciplinary design consultancy in Laos, joined together to save elephants by urging travelers not to purchase ivory through billboards placed outside Vientiane’s international airport featuring Yao Ming, a long-time WildAid ambassador and former NBA star. The goal of these advertisements is to dissuade travelers from purchasing ivory and inform them of the illegality of bringing ivory back to their home countries. About 1.3 million travelers pass through the airport each year.

Yao Ming encourages responsible tourism at Vientiane’s International Airport

The launch of these new billboards coincides with the announcement of a new decree by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisolith prohibiting hunting, import, export, transit and trade of wildlife products from protected species such as elephant, rhino, tiger, pangolin and many others. The Prime Minister’s decree includes instructions to government agencies to step up inspections at border crossings and shops selling these products.

“We want to help Laos end this illicit trade and become a leader in wildlife conservation. Together with celebrity ambassadors, media partners and government entities, we can reach more people, helping inform and dissuade them from buying products that threaten imperiled wildlife. We believe that when the buying stops the killing can too.” said John Baker, WildAid’s Chief Program Officer.

BlueGrass Design GroupCo., Ltd’s focus has always been to enhance lives and experiences through their design work. This partnership is an opportunity to enhance the lives of wildlife and support conservation efforts. “We are proud to support WildAid in its struggle against the illegal wildlife trade. BlueGrass Design Group is deeply concerned by the depletion of elephant populations worldwide. This partnership aligns with our organization’s values and with the strength of our billboards outside Wattay International Airport, we are delighted to help spread WidAid’s campaign messages to travelers in Laos and help save elephants” said Praseuth Banchongphakdy, Bluegrass Design Group’s Principal and Founder.

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About WildAid

WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too. 

Journalists on deadline may email communications@wildaid.org