Chinese New Year: choose the gift of life and say no to ivoryToday we celebrate Chinese New Year. Seven days of festivities, feasting, spending time with loved ones and gifting generously. Every year people spend over 610 billion yuan—about $100 billion on shopping and dining during the spring festival. Many of us search the internet and shops for exquisite presents to offer. However, one item that should stay out of our shopping list this year is ivory. Part of Chinese culture for over 2000 years, ivory items were considered a thing of beauty but now China has opted to leave this practice in the past. We choose to gift life, we choose a future with elephants and as of the first of January this year, ivory is an illegal product.
The final closure of China’s domestic ivory market was a historic moment. The ivory trade ban was widely hailed by the international community as a game changer that could help to reverse the decline of wild African elephant populations.
The desire for ivory is fueling the current poaching crisis in Africa, with the tusks for ivory only being harvested from the elephant once it’s dead. On average 20,000 elephants are being illegally killed every year. If this trend continues, African elephants may be functionally extinct in just a few decades. And it’s not just animals like elephants that are suffering due to the illegal wildlife trade, people that protect these animals are also caught up in the battle. Latest figures* show there were 101 recorded deaths of wildlife rangers, in just twelve months.
With China’s ivory ban we have a real chance to save Africa’s elephant and drastically reduce a major element of the illegal wildlife trade which is killing both wildlife and people.
Purchasing of ivory is now a criminal act in China, including bringing ivory that has been bought in other countries back to China. Recent research that we carried out in China with GlobeScan found that regular travelers have history of purchasing ivory and were highly likely to purchase ivory in the future. Neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Laos PDR, Vietnam and Myanmar are still openly selling ivory products – it’s important to know that there is an international ban on bringing ivory back to your home country from abroad. It’s illegal and you could face heavy fines or imprisonment.
If one were to ask what can we do to help protect African Elephants？The answer is simple: stop buying and gifting ivory products, and spread the word. We choose to gift life not ivory.
Illegal wildlife trade, which includes products such as ivory is like a machine, with consumption as its engine. Each one of us holds the key to shutting it down in our hands. Never think that an ivory bracelet, a pendant or string of beads is too small to have significance, as most ivory is sold in this form. Illegal trade chains are tainted with the blood of slaughtered wildlife, but we can cut them off in an instant when we collectively decide to stop buying wildlife products.
Please be aware of the ivory trade ban and avoid the risk of buying illegal products when enjoying the festival. I wish all Chinese nationals a happy and prosperous new year in 2018！