Sparkles of light in China are illuminating the darkness of ignorance for animal welfare

By simply making Chinese  people  aware that every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant, IFAW’s ad campaign “Mom, I have teeth”  successfully reduced the high risk segment of people—those who are most likely to buy ivory—down almost by half, from 54% to 26%.  I was overwhelmed by the reaction to my blog posted from the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) 16th Conference of Parties, entitled “My angst over China’s role in the trade of endangered species."

In three days after the blog was posted on International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) China’s Weibo, (micro-blog site), it was viewed by nearly two thousand Chinese netizens and forwarded hundreds of times.

Of the over 200 comments, 99% supported my views.

Many posts shared my feeling of shame and frustration about how China is viewed by the majority of citizens in many other countries, due to its relentless taking of resources around the world.

One post said:

I am at a meeting where delegates mostly come from South East Asia. However, ‘China’ is a most commonly used word, associated with pollution of air and water, irresponsible investment, development of cross-border water ways which impacts communities downstream, bribery of corrupt local officials to get preferential rights for mining etc. I completely appreciate what Grace feels. If we don’t care about our shared home and neighbors, if we don’t project “soft power”, what’s the use of advertising?”

Another one echoed:

I share your feeling. Eaten by China! Every time my African colleagues ask about consumption of ivory and rhino horn, every time my Kazakhstan colleagues ask about demand for saiga antelope horn; every time Myanmar colleagues told me Chinese are cutting the virgin forests on the border with truck-loads going into China; my Indonesian colleagues mention the increase of tiger poaching probably linked with the Chinese demand, my heart would sink!

Another one agreed:

It’s a national shame. China’s use of wildlife is a massive industry that brings nothing to the nation but shame!”

In addition to frustration and condemnation, many Chinese netizens pointed out the cause of the problem.

“The biggest wildlife crime culprits are those that have the power (financial and political) to make the largest profit. What can we do when the foxes are guarding the chicken coup?”

“It all comes down to corruption. Not even laws are enforceable when corruption is rampant.”

“GDP goes up. Standard of living comes down. No blue sky. No white cloud. No clean air and water. No animals. No birds. Even if sleeping hugging a gold nugget, how many years can you live on this earth? These are all tell-tail signs of a nation that’s lacking moral value.”

“China needs a wildlife protection law, a law that truly protects animals rather than promoting their utilization.”  

More people pledge and call for action.

When in the dark for too long, your eyes can’t adjust to light. However, if each of us can make a sparkle of light, WE CAN illuminate darkness. Let’s promote ecological civilization by starting from REJECTING WILDLIFE CONSUMPTION.

Shark fin, tiger bone, elephant ivory, I DON’T WANT ANY!

One netizen pointed out the Chinese public needs to be made aware that their behavior of consumption is having such a devastating impact on wildlife around the world. If they are aware, most of these decent people will not willingly push a species towards extinction. 

Chinese actress Li BingBing, who recently started a crusade to save elephants and rhinos by urging Chinese to “Say ‘No’ to Ivory Purchasing” confessed that she once bought an ivory bracelet, not knowing the bloody slaughter behind.

She apologized for her ignorance then and pledged to say “NO” to ivory for life.

Previous International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) polling showed that 7 out of 10 Chinese citizens do not know ivory comes from dead elephants.

In Chinese, ivory (Xiang Ya) means elephant teeth.

Unfortunately this nomenclature gives people the impression that elephant tusk, like human teeth, can fall off naturally.   

By simply making Chinese  people  aware that every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant, IFAW’s ad campaign “Mom, I have teeth”  successfully reduced the high risk segment of people—those who are most likely to buy ivory—down almost by half, from 54% to 26%. 

In addition, amongst the 44% of Chinese who had purchased ivory in the past 12 months, only 7% still expressed their intention of making a future purchase following exposure to the IFAW campaign.

The survey demonstrates that Chinese are not prejudiced against elephants. A majority of the Chinese public polled rejected the statement “It’s OK to buy ivory even if elephants are killed to supply the trade”.

This gives me hope that the knowledge of every piece of ivory costs the life of an elephant can change Chinese public attitude about buying elephant ivory.

These sparkles of light may eventually illuminate the darkness of ignorance for animal welfare.

This may be the only hope for these majestic animals. 


For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s efforts to reduce wildlife trade in China, click here.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy