By Dave Lawrence
A year after China imposed a ban on the commercial sale of elephant ivory, surveys indicate Chinese citizens are simply traveling to neighboring countries to buy ivory, and now the Chinese government is working with wildlife nonprofits to launch a public awareness campaign to warn Chinese consumers they may end up in jail if they buy ivory abroad.
According to a new report from the website Modern Diplomacy, surveys show Chinese travelers are buying ivory at souvenir shops in countries with lax wildlife protections that border China. China Customs and National Forestry and Grasslands Administration has teamed up with wildlife nonprofits WildAid and the WWF and launched a campaign to tell Chinese travelers “their souvenirs could be contraband”.
Part of the campaign features a new video with an actor famous among Chinese, Huang Xuan, who plays the role of a Chinese Customs Officer, warning travelers that the purchase of wildlife products is driving extinction, and warns potential buyers that it is not only illegal to buy ivory in China, but it’s equally illegal to bring it back with you as a souvenir. In the video, he says if you smuggle ivory into China, you could face imprisonment and confiscation of assets. Modern Diplomacy reported that China Customs has actually made two trips to Africa in the last year to extradite Chinese nationals there who have been caught in a growing web of Asian nationals living in Africa who are operating clandestine backyard factories where elephant ivory and rhino horn is fashioned into trinkets, jewelry and other figurines as a way to try and avoid detection of the objects as they’re smuggled out of Africa, and into Asia, according to wildlife NGO Traffic.
According to Traffic, they conducted a survey with the WWF in September 2018 that showed a decline in illegal ivory sales and demand on the Chinese mainland, but that close to 20% of respondents who made trips outside China bought ivory abroad, in Thailand and Hong Kong primarily, but also in Laos, where more venders are now selling ivory to meet demand caused by Chinese travelers. A Save the Elephants investigation showed both the venders and buyers were Chinese, with prices even listed in Chinese currency.
In addition to a stern :30 second video, which you can see below, images from the public awareness campaign will be at customs entry points in airports and at railway stations, and especially along the borders to Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Modern Diplomacy quoted CEO of WildAid Peter Knights who said. “We’ve seen how these campaigns generate results in increased awareness and reduced consumption of wildlife products such as shark fin. This message will reach tens of millions of people, and will help build on the recent momentum to end the devastation caused by ivory consumption.”