Photography festival in China opens eyes and hearts to animals
“Aunt, would you please take one photo for us? I also want to protect the animals!” A 7- 8 year old boy said to IFAW staff, and then made a whale tail with his hands in front of IFAW exhibit with his sister.
With the support from China Pingyao International Photography Festival, an exhibition themed ‘The wound and Loss of Nature: Wildlife in Trade’ ran at Pingyao, Shanxi, China this past September.
The festival was a huge tourism event with the event’s fame growing in the past years. Pingyao is also a very ancient town with preserved architectures and styles.
This year, there were 427 exhibitions, and 12,000 pictures displayed in the festival.
IFAW was invited to attend the festival, and was provided a terrific location (the largest exhibit area at the main entrance to the exhibit chambers) for full seven days of the festival.
In the exhibit, we featured seven species that were mostly threatened by trade with a pair of large size photos for each species strongly contrasting against each other: the beauty of the wildlife in the wild vs. sad or cruel images of killing scenes. We also displayed a collection of photos from people from different countries, with different careers and back grounds, who showed their support for whales by making whale tails with their hands.
After reading the exhibit, the boy who wanted his picture taken with us felt so sad that he also wants to help protect animals. “I will not buy any wildlife products when I grow up...” he said.
The Earth we share with animals is a huge and complex web of life. Wildlife is the basis of our human survival and development. However, wildlife trade is becoming the fastest and most direct factor pushing species to the brink of extinction, and making the web of life full of holes.
Ivory seizures across the world suggest 25,000 to 50,000 elephants were slaughtered in 2011 to meet the demand for ivory. The continuing massive seizures of ivory reveal 2012 as officially the worst year ever for the African elephant. In 2013, in less than one week in March, 86 elephants were slaughtered by poachers, sadly including 33 pregnant females. At the same time, ivory confiscation is continuing to escalate. In the city of Hong Kong, the gateway to mainland China, authorities have seized over 11 tonnes of ivory in 7 large scale seizures in the past twelve months.
In South Africa, rhino poaching increased by 30 times in just four years (2007-2011). The tiger population has been reduced rapidly in less than a century, from 100,000 down to about 3000. Every year, about 300,000 to 400,000 baby seals, which are between the ages of only 3 weeks and 3 months, will be killed. And every year, over 73 million sharks are killed only for their fins…
The exhibit area was visited by about 250,000 people, and was regarded as one of the most shocking and powerful exhibitions in the festival by visitors.
One professional photographer told IFAW that he was deeply touched by these pictures. “And I was educated”, he added that:
“I love wildlife and have been taking photos of wild animal for years, but this is my first time learning that elephant and rhino are killed for their ivory and horns. I certainly will say ‘no’ to these products from now on.”
A journalist from Yellow River News Website interviewed IFAW staff. “Among all exhibitions that I saw in the festival, the one IFAW presented is of the most significance”, he said.
After the interview, he put the video on their website. Because the website is the Shanxi government official website, it was widely used by many mainstream media in Shanxi Province.
What is more, China Central TV (CCTV-News) profiled the IFAW exhibit when they aired the piece about the festival on the seven o’clock national news, which is a compulsory broadcast news program on 90% of the country’s public TV, which might be reaching to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
“We do not want to exchange a wildlife products with an animal’s life, at the cost of a healthy planet. Please say ‘NO’ to wildlife products!” A netizen named Xiaosa posted online.
Hopefully our work here in China will come to understand like the boy and the photographer, by saying “no”, they can help save the lives of wild animals around the world.