WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation kicked off a campaign to reduce ivory demand today at the Shanghai Pudong Shangri-La Hotel. Former NBA star Yao Ming and WildAid co-founder Peter Knights called on China to help raise awareness of elephant poaching, reduce the demand for ivory, and protect endangered wildlife. The conservation groups also announced an anti-ivory public service campaign, to be televised internationally in 2014, featuring Yao Ming, American actor Edward Norton, China’s leading actress Li Bing Bing, Congolese NBA great Dikembe Mutombo, and current NBA star Jeremy Lin.
China’s rapid economic development continues to create a burgeoning middle class that can afford endangered wildlife products such as ivory. The current demand for ivory claims the lives of as many as 25,000 African elephants annually.
"To protect these endangered animals, we must reduce the market demand," said Yao Ming. “When people in China know what's happening with the illegal ivory trade, they will say no to these products.”
Recent surveys indicate a large portion of China’s population is unaware of the death toll to create ivory and rhino horn products, yet a greater number of residents support government enforced bans. (Read the ivory and rhino horn surveys.)
"The illegal ivory trade threatens these already endangered animals, negatively impacts Africa’s tourism industry, and reportedly funds terror groups,” said WildAid’s Peter Knights. “The urgency of this crisis demands that we launch and grow this campaign.”
The conservation groups also introduced a "Do not buy ivory" web page where the public can upload photos, pledge not to buy ivory, and show their support for wildlife conservation.
“Africa’s elephants can no longer support the world’s addiction to ivory,” said African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin. “As the number one market for ivory in the world, China has a critical role to play in helping reduce demand for ivory. Owning ivory is simply not worth the bloody cost to elephants.”
“China holds the future of Africa’s elephants in her hands. With Chinese leadership, elephants have a chance of a harmonious future with the modern world. But if the buying continues, the outlook for this magnificent species is bleak,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, CEO of Save the Elephants.