Published 2 April 2013

Earth Hour platform boosts China outreach on illegal wildlife trade

Shanghai, China, 2nd April 2013—The topic of illegal wildlife trade was brought to the fore during this year’s Earth Hour celebrations in China, marking its first time engagement with WWF’s signature campaign.

The topic of illegal wildlife trade was brought to the fore during this year’s Earth Hour celebrations in China. © TRAFFIC

On the night of 23rd March, an interview themed Tears of the Elephant was conducted at the Earth Hour event venue in Shanghai. Dr Jianbin Shi, Head of TRAFFIC’s China team, together with Professor Hongfa Xu from East China Normal University (who established TRAFFIC’s programme in China over a decade of work) talked about ivory and other illegal wildlife trade issues to around 200 representatives from government, public, media and NGOs.

The presenters emphasized the importance of wildlife and healthy ecosystems to the development of human society, and in particular how Earth Hour participants—through their purchasing decisions—could play a part in preventing the negative impacts of illegal trade in wildlife products. 

A 10-minute interview was also broadcast live during the “lights-off hour” by Radio Eastern Metropolis, a leading radio station in Shanghai. During the interview, Professor Xu explained the linkage between ivory products and the slaughter of African Elephants. 

“At the end of the trade chain, such as here in China, we often never realize the bloody slaughter behind the beautiful ivory products,” said Professor Xu. 

Dr Shi emphasized the fact that not only elephants, but also rhinos and other wild animals and plants are suffering from trafficking to supply a persistent consumer demand, including markets in China. 

“We ask you not to purchase any illegal wildlife products and to recognize the wise approach to consuming wildlife products in a legal and sustainable way,” said Dr Shi. 

TRAFFIC also had a booth at the event, with publicity materials to urge Earth Hour participants to help spread the knowledge of threats posed to endangered species such as Tigers and marine turtles.

Earth Hour is a global event organized annually by WWF, encouraging households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. This year in China, the campaign expanded to cover more topics such as wildlife protection and resource management.

Just one day before the “lights-off day”, TRAFFIC’s account on Sina Weibo (a Chinese social media platform, similar to Twitter) posted the news of 89 elephants poached in Chad. The news was retweeted more than 9,000 times in just 24 hours after two film stars, namely Bingbing Li and Qi Shu voluntarily retweeted.

The online public expressed their anger and sadness towards the killings, and called for an end to the purchase of ivory products, with re-posting of the information now above 11,000 shares.