Followup: Hopeful signs in reducing Chinese consumption of illegal ivory

Some welcome news has surfaced from China about measures to shut down ivory smuggling and change its citizens’ attitude toward ivory.

Konchog Norbu
8 January 2014

Yesterday, Chinese authorities staged a widely-reported public demolition of an estimated six tons of raw and carved tusks that they had seized. Given that China accounts for 70 per cent of the market for poached ivory, the ceremony was met with approval by three of the highest-profile NGO’s working to end the illegal ivory trade: WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation. (See WildAid China’s exclusive video of the “ivory crush” here and their new public service message after the jump.)

China’s ivory demolition underlines the success these charities are beginning to have working with Chinese authorities to undertake a public awareness campaign about the negative impacts of buying ivory (as well as rhino horn and shark fin). WildAid has enlisted a number of celebrities, such as NBA superstar Yao Ming and martial arts actor Jackie Chan, as well as international figures such as Prince William, David Beckham, and Edward Norton, in a series of impactful, anti-cruelty video messages. In terms of ivory poaching, they highlight how in buying carvings made from illegal ivory, many of which have Buddhist themes, the person is directly participating not only in the massacre of as many as 35,000 elephants annually (creating the serious subsidiary problem of orphaned baby elephants) but also supporting genocidal militias—well-known for their use of child soldiers and mass rape—which often dominate the lucrative poaching as a means to fund their atrocities. WildAid released this video, “Fatherhood,” just yesterday:

It seems many in China are getting the message about ivory. Britain’s Independent reported last week that, while it’s still not difficult to find “new ivory” in Chinese markets, recent government crackdowns and convictions, as well as the public awareness campaigns, produced responses like this when the reporter inquired about such contraband among shopkeepers like Ren Wenzhou:

“We used to sell new ivory here but not anymore. Haven’t you seen the news? Ivory is like tiger skins; it harms animals.”

The Independent has been so moved by this subject that they have created their own “Elephant Appeal” to solicit donations in support of Save the Giants, supporting local anti-poaching rangers in Kenya’s game parks.

Konchog Norbu

Konchog Norbu

Konchog Norbu became a Buddhist in 1990 and ordained as a monk in 1993. Since then, he has overseen communications and media relations for several dharma organizations, authored the widely-read blog Dreaming of Danzan Ravjaa during a four-year stint in Mongolia, and filled his begging bowl on occasion with freelance writing and editing gigs.