70 percent of Chinese did not know that ivory came from dead elephants.
For three years, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been running advertizing campaigns in Chinese cities to raise awareness on the true source of ivory: slaughtered elephants. A recent evaluation of the campaign by Rapid Asia found that 66 percent of those who saw the ads said they would “definitely” not buy ivory in the future.
Conservationists in China say that one of the reasons ivory remains popular in the country is due to a public misconception about how ivory is obtained. According to previous polling by the IFAW, 70 percent of Chinese believed that elephants simply dropped their ivory tusks like human teeth, and did not know that elephants were slaughtered en masse for their entrenched tusks. IFAW’s three year campaign was meant to change this erroneous perception.
“The ads explain that ivory products come from dead elephants and encourage consumers to reject elephant ivory,” explains Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW, in a press release.
Savannah elephant in Namibia. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Elephant poaching has skyrocketed in recent years. Experts now believe that around 30,000 elephants are likely slaughtered annually for their tusks. Forest elephants in Central Africa have been hit the hardest, but few populations worldwide are considered truly secure. While some governments have responded by adding wildlife rangers and increasing penalties for poaching, many experts say that tackling the demand side will be key if elephants are ever to roam again unmolested. China remains one of the largest destinations for illegal ivory, but demand in many other countries—including Thailand, the Philippines and the U.S.—is also fueling the trade.
According to the Rapid Asia report, IFAW’s advertisements in China, which have reached 75 percent of people in targeted cities, have had a significant impact. Comparing groups who had seen the ads to those who haven’t, the report finds that those exposed to the ads were less likely to buy ivory in the future: 92 percent of those who saw the ads said they would “definitely” or “probably” not buy ivory, compared to 82 percent of those who had not seen the ads. More importantly, the campaign appears to have cut in half people who are most likely to buy ivory (i.e those classified as “high risk” for purchasing ivory), down from 54 percent down to 26 percent.
“It’s very exciting to see that our campaign has definitely resonated with the Chinese public and achieved its intended outcome,” said Gabriel. “What’s more encouraging is to see Chinese people are not prejudiced against elephants. Once they know the bloody slaughter of elephants behind each piece of ivory, the majority not only rejects purchasing ivory but tells their friends and family to reject it as well.”
The report found that more educational campaigns would help reduce demand further, including emphasizing the massive-scale of the current elephant poaching crisis and that buying ivory stimulates the illegal trade.
“This highlights the need for continued campaigning to sway people to avoid buying ivory,” the report reads, adding “there is an opportunity to take the campaign to the next level.”
Baby elephant in South Africa. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
(10/09/2013) A government minister in Tanzania has called for a “shoot-to-kill” policy against poachers in a radical measure to curb the mass slaughter of elephants. Khamis Kagasheki’s proposal for perpetrators of the illicit ivory trade to be executed ‘on the spot’ divided opinion, with some conservationists backing it as a necessary deterrent but others warning that it would lead to an escalation of violence.
(09/27/2013) Hillary and Chelsea Clinton on Thursday deployed their mother-daughter star power to help the effort to save African elephants, brokering an $80m effort to stop the ivory poaching which threatens the animals with extinction.
(09/12/2013) Africa’s elephant poaching crisis doesn’t just threaten a species, but imperils one of humanity’s most important links to the natural world and even our collective sanity, according to acclaimed photographers and film-makers, Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson. Authors of the book Walking Thunder – In the Footsteps of the African Elephant, Christo and Wilkinson have been documenting Africa’s titans in photos and film for several years. In 2011, the pair released a film Lysander’s Song (named after their son an avid fan of elephants) which depicts the millennial-old relationship between humans and elephants.
(09/10/2013) On October 8th, the Obama administration will publicly destroy its ivory stockpile, totaling some six tons, according to a White House forum yesterday on the illegal wildlife trade. The destruction of the stockpile—via crushing—is meant to send a message that the U.S. is taking a tougher stand on illegal the wildlife trade, which is decimating elephants across Africa and imperiling other animals worldwide. The U.S. remains one of the biggest destinations for ivory and other illegal animal part aside from East Asia.
(08/01/2013) The Congolese Supreme Court has ordered Ghislain Ngondjo (known as Pepito) to five years in prison for slaughtering dozens of elephants for their ivory tusks. The five year sentence is the maximum in the Republic of Congo for poaching. Ngondjo was considered the “kingpin” of an elephant poaching group; in addition to killing pachyderms, Ngondjo recruited new poachers and made death threats to park rangers and staff in Odzala National Park.
(07/24/2013) In a single night in March, a band of heavily-armed, horse-riding poachers slaughtered 89 elephants in southern Chad, thirty of which were pregnant females. The carnage was the worst poaching incident of the year, but even this slaughter paled in comparison to the 650 elephants killed in a Cameroon park in 2012. Elephant poaching is hitting new records as experts say some 30,000 elephants are being killed every year for their ivory tusks. But the illegal wildlife trade—estimated at $19 billion—is not just decimating elephants, but also rhinos, big cats, great apes, and thousands of lesser-known species like pangolins and slow lorises. This growing carnage recently led to representatives of over 40 zoos and dozens of wildlife programs to call on governments around the world to take immediate action on long-neglected wildlife crime.