Will Eastern Superstition Kill Off the Elephants? Or African Greed?

A 2007 survey carried out by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that 70% of Chinese polled did not know that ivory came from dead elephants.

The organisation’s first ad campaign was a simple poster explaining the actual origins of ivory. A campaign evaluation earlier this year found that the ad, promoted by the world’s largest outdoor advertising company JC Decaux, had been seen by 75% by China’s urban population, and heavily impacted their view on ivory. Among people classified as “high risk” — that is, those likeliest to buy ivory — the proportion who would actually do so after seeing the ad was almost slashed by half.

If you want to change things start with one small step.

Before China had its lust for all things ivory, Japan had that honour. That was in the 80’s, not too long ago and it shows that changing people’s views about ivory is possible.

Hong Kong is at the heart of the ivory black market. Its ports are a major entry point for smuggled ivory shipped from Africa to Asia.

In recent years officials have seized huge amounts of ivory: 3.4 tons in 2011, 5.6 tons in 2012, and about 7 tons in the first ten months of 2013.

It seems to us that tighter controls in China, combined with tighter controls and policies in African countries could save the elephants from extinction. It would unfair to blame the East alone for killing off the majestic animal. African governments, many rough up with favourable stories about elephants, should know better.

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