Reducing markets for wildlife products in China

From our China office in Beijing, IFAW works on reducing the markets for wildlife parts and products in China by addressing both the supply and demand.

Recognizing that China is one of the world’s largest consumers of wildlife products, from elephant ivory and shark fin to tiger bone and rhino horn, our China office has created locally relevant, effective initiatives to reduce the trade of wildlife parts and products. IFAW also monitors wildlife trade, online and offline, to assist in improved law enforcement.

An IFAW report, Making a Killing—A 2011 Survey of Ivory Markets in China, which exposed rampant illegal ivory trading, led to a massive government crackdown on illegal trade of wildlife both online and at physical markets.

The operation in the spring of 2012 resulted in the confiscation of more than 130,000 wild animals and animal products, the shutdown of 7,155 high-street shops and 628 online stores, and the removal of illegal online trade information.

Working with the Chinese government and private businesses, IFAW promotes enhanced wildlife policies and regulations to make the illicit trade of wildlife parts and products more difficult.

At IFAW’s urging, Chinese language search engine Baidu shut down 13 forums engaging in the illegal trade of ivory, tiger bone, rhino horn, sea tortoises shell and other derivatives and in live animals.

Baidu deleted more than 34,000 postings of animal products and provided IFAW with new technologies to educate consumers. 

Working with the Chinese government, IFAW successfully persuaded many other Internet trading sites in China to adopt wildlife trade bans in their policies.

Led by Taobao.com, which banned the trade of tiger bone, ivory, rhino horn, bear bile, turtle shell, pangolin scale and shark fin as early as 2008, many other specialty websites are following suit, effectively making online policies stronger than China’s Wildlife Protection Law.

IFAW also alerted authorities of an impending – and illegal -- offline auction offering of 400 bottles of tiger bone wine, which led Chinese authorities to block the auction.

The China State Forestry Administration later issued a ban on the auction of ivory, rhino horn, tiger bone and other endangered wildlife products. Heeding the ban, several companies cancelled auctions containing endangered species.

The auction trade ban effectively resulted in a 40% reduction of overall auction turnover for mainland China in 2012, representing $322 million in sales.

In China, wealth is increasingly overtaking health as the demand driver for many endangered species. To effectively stigmatize wildlife consumption, IFAW develops campaign messages that are culturally-appropriate, politically-sensitive and socially-motivating to dispel myths and change attitudes.  

An IFAW survey found that 70% of the Chinese public did not know ivory comes from dead elephants. On the basis of that data, IFAW then conducted a major, multi-year campaign to urge consumers to reject ivory products.

A campaign evaluation conducted in 2013 by Rapid Asia showed that IFAW’s messages effectively penetrated 75% of urban Chinese population and lowered the proclivity to buy ivory from 54 percent to 26 percent in certain consumer segments identified as high-risk. IFAW’s survey has also indicated that many former ivory purchasers would not buy ivory again if it were illegal to do so.

Additionally, IFAW engages Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to influence policy change at the national and international level. These efforts, combined with having clear and unequivocal policies against the trade of endangered species, vigorous enforcement and meaningful penalties against violators, can we then stigmatize wildlife consumption, which IFAW believes is essential for demand reduction.