Beijing, China, 13th July, 2016—With around 30,000 elephants being poached for their tusks each year, a major drive was launched this week to convince Chinese citizens to stop buying ivory as the government prepares to phase out the country’s domestic ivory market.
Officially launched at an Exhibition on Emblematic Species in Beijing organized by the Prince Albert II Foundation of Monaco and the Monaco Embassy to China, the WWF and TRAFFIC initiative uses social and traditional media to dissuade people from buying ivory and to raise awareness about the plight of Africa’s elephants and international efforts to protect them. People are being urged to link their index fingers to show their commitment to protecting elephants.
The initiative aims to build public support for the Chinese government’s decision to phase out the domestic ivory trade, which was confirmed by President Xi Jinping in September 2015 during his visit to Washington. The government is expected to publish its timetable for the phase out before the end of this year.
The US has already imposed an almost total ban on its domestic ivory market after new regulations came into force on 6th July.
“China and the US have demonstrated remarkable leadership by deciding to close their domestic ivory markets, a critical factor for the future of elephants,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
“TRAFFIC has partnered with the government and private sector, including Alibaba, Tencent, courier and tourism companies to tackle the illegal ivory trade, as well as worked to promote sustainable alternatives to ivory,” said Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China office. “Now it’s time to build mass public support to say no to ivory trade.”
In less than three months’ time, Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) CoP17 in Johannesburg will discuss a range of issues relating to elephants.
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A National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) report has revealed that elephant rides are still widely available in South Africa, despite a growing international move away from the controversial practice.
The report by the NSPCA on the welfare status of elephants in captivity at 26 elephant back safari and sanctuary facilities nationwide (14 of which offer elephant back riding) reveals that nearly all captive elephants suffer welfare deficiencies in one way or another. This highlights the fact that South Africa is lagging behind in a growing global trend against using captive elephants for entertainment .
The report, compiled by the NSPCA’s Wildlife Protection Unit has been submitted to all relevant government departments in South Africa aswell as NGO’s nationally and abroad and offers a scientific overview of the cruel realities that many captive elephants endure physically and emotionally.
The report also confirms the lack of conservation benefits of the captive elephant industry, noting that WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) do not consider captive breeding a significant contribution to elephant conservation due to low breeding and high mortality rates. Also noted in the report is the high number of human injury and fatality due to public interaction with captive elephants.
According to the NSPCA report, more than half of the 26 facilities keeping captive elephants for public interaction use a method called “free contact” which includes the use of physical punishment by means of an ankus or hook to train elephants into submission.
“If tourists knew what it took to train an elephant for their ‘pleasure’, South African tourism could be damaged,” states Dr Mandy Lombard of Public Watch. “Although we hear of people being killed, only very few of the incidents where elephant handlers or tourists are attacked have been exposed to the public.”
In the rest of the world a growing movement against elephant back riding is emerging with many travel agencies taking elephant riding off their itineraries and dissuading customers from supporting the practice.
“We do not promote elephant trekking or elephant riding on Responsible Travel,” says leading online travel specialists ResponsibleTravel.com.
Adding to this, unlike South Africa, 37 countries across the globe have bans on animals in circuses including nations such as Mexico, Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands. Although not yet nationally endorsed, certain US states have also issued circus animal bans but England remains divided on this as political parties’ debate whether or not to change legislation.
Currently the NSPCA has cases pending against Brian Boswell Circus for cruelty charges and a further two against the owners of Knysna Elephant Park in the Garden Route for cruelty and the illegal removal of wild elephants.