"Ivory Free" campaign launched to protect wild elephants

Wednesday, 2017-08-30 16:17:38
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Illegal ivory from Africa confiscated at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City. (Credit: NDO)
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NDO – An international campaign aimed at raising public awareness concerning elephant protection was launched in Ho Chi Minh City, on August 30.

Co-organised by the Centre of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE) and WildAid, the "Ivory Free" campaign is part of the global wildlife relief programme entitled “When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.”

Do Quang Tung, Deputy Head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Office, said that from approximately 1.2 million individuals in Africa in 1979, the number of African elephants has dropped to just over 420,000. Two thirds of the elephants have been killed mainly for ivory in order to serve the demand of Asian countries and every day the world loses around 100 African elephants.

Previously in Vietnam, there were over 1,000 elephants but now the country has only about 100 individuals living along the border with Laos and Cambodia. In the last ten years, Vietnam has become an illegal ivory transit point for transportation to other countries.

According to CHANGE, the most recent data showed that around 33,000 elephants are killed each year for ivory. China accounts for 70% of the global demand for ivory and the ivory is used to make carvings, jewellery and handicrafts and is considered a symbol of wealth. Worryingly, the profits from the sale of ivory are very high, estimated at US$450-900 per kg, only behind drug trafficking in terms of profits.

Wishing to prevent ivory trafficking in Vietnam in order to contribute to the global efforts to save the elephant from extinction, WildAid and CHANGE, along with several celebrities serving as the campaign’s Ambassadors, have joined hands in the “Ivory Free” campaign.

The campaign aims to highlight the dramatic decline of the African elephant population due to poaching, whilst encouraging people not to consume ivory and support their local governments to further enforce the laws to prevent the unauthorised transport of ivory through Vietnam to other markets.

WildAid and CHANGE representatives alongside the campaign’s Ambassadors launch "Ivory Free" in Ho Chi Minh City, on August 30. (Credit: infonet.vn)

The campaign consists of several main activities, including the mass production of international quality communication products; cooperating with government agencies and national parks to improve the capacity of local law enforcement officers; mobilising people to protect the elephants by not buying or selling ivory products and informing the law enforcement agencies to help handle any individuals selling ivory products; and calling on government agencies to not display ivory in their offices.

Deputy Head Tung stated that Vietnam has prevented illegal hunting and trading of elephant tusks across five levels, including preventing hunting and investment in hunting, illegal trafficking, processing and consuming.

In 2012, the Vietnamese Prime Minister issued a decision approving the emergency action plan for the conservation of elephants in Vietnam to 2020. A year later, the government leader also issued a decision approving the project on conservation of elephants in Vietnam for the 2013-2020 period, in order to preserve wild elephants, maintain the population of home-raised elephants and minimise conflicts between elephants and humans in areas where elephants are present.

In Vietnam, elephants are strictly protected in national parks and ivory trade is strictly prohibited. However, large amounts of ivory are still illegally shipped to Vietnam. According to Le Nguyen Linh, Deputy Head of Customs Department of Saigon Port Zone 1, in the last three months of 2016 alone, up to 6 tonnes of ivory were seized at Saigon Port.

This situation shows that Vietnam is the largest transhipment centre for ivory in the world. Furthermore, it is worrying that the law is unclear on samples imported from foreign countries, leading to “light” legal treatment over these subjects, even sometimes untreated, Linh said.

To prevent cross-border wildlife hunting and trafficking, the revised Criminal Code adopted by the National Assembly, for the first time, specifically regulates ivory-related crimes.

Speaking on the elephant protection solutions, Hoang Thi Minh Hong, CHANGE Director, said that the "Ivory Free" campaign is expected to last for three years. During the campaign, CHANGE will hold exhibitions in Ho Chi Minh City calling on locals to protect elephants. The centre will promote cooperation with government agencies and national parks to provide training and organise workshops to improve the capacity of local law enforcement staff.

John Wilder, WildAid Managing Director-Programmes, said that elephant hunting and ivory trading are banned in many countries around the world. However, elephant killings in Africa and the ivory trade in Asia are still taking place. WildAid has worked with China and Thailand on the implementation of solutions to prevent illegal ivory trafficking.

In Vietnam, WildAid is focusing on implementing solutions that will change people's misconceptions about the uses of wildlife products, including ivory, through a range of media educational publications.