Grace Ge Gabriel’s mission to protect animals has been defined by firsts. China’s first draft of an animal welfare law. The country’s first raptor rescue center. The first global campaign to protect the Tibetan antelope, an endemic species on the Qinghai Tibet Plateau. Grace has driven IFAW’s work in China from its very inception.
Her intrepid spirit shaped the course of her career. While working for the U.S. media, she documented the rescue of nine Asiatic black bears from years of torture on bear bile farms.
Watching the bears take their first steps to freedom changed me from an observer to an activist.
She quit her job in television and returned to her native China to set up the office for IFAW.
She was instrumental in linking wildlife protection with development in rural Yunnan province in China where the remaining Asian elephants roam. There, Grace and her team are helping alleviate human-elephant conflicts, raise conservation awareness, and motivate local communities to live in harmony with wildlife. Animal Planet featured this work in their documentary, “China’s Last Elephant.”
As IFAW’s Regional Director for Asia, Grace applies that dedication to addressing the illegal trade challenges wildlife face around the world. Recognizing that consumer demand for wildlife parts and products fuels poaching of these species in the wild, Grace spearheaded a series of behavior change campaigns.
To save the dwindling populations of wild tigers in Asia, she campaigned alongside groups from traditional medicine to tourism, and even the World Bank to end tiger trade. To halt the elephant poaching crisis in Africa, she created a campaign sensitizing Chinese to the relationship between elephant killing and ivory trade. In four years, her campaign more than halved the propensity to buy ivory among the most likely consumer group.
China’s ivory trade ban was a defining moment in her career. She knows that awareness raising campaigns can erase ignorance but cannot stop greed. The only way to stop criminals who profit from the grey markets which provide laundering opportunities, create enforcement challenges and confuse consumers is by making ivory trade illegal in all circumstances.
Grace has testified before the European Union Commission on protecting wild tigers, before the United Kingdom Parliament Environmental Audit Committee on global wildlife crime, and the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group invited her to speak about how to improve control of global online trade of wildlife. Blogs and articles Grace authored had been published on the National Geographic and the UN Chronicle.
In a role-reversal from her former life as a producer, Grace’s work has earned the attention of multiple media outlets. She has been interviewed on news outlets from CGTN to CNN. In 2016, Grace was also featured as one of 50 conservationists in the book “Saving Wild: Inspiration from 50 Leading Conservationists.” Grace uses this attention to push the real work: protecting wildlife.
Every day, she sets her sights not just on what’s easy, but what’s necessary to protect animals across Asia and around the world. Because the reality is that many of these wildlife populations don’t have much time. Extinction is forever. Someone needs to be first, fast. Luckily, Grace is the person for the job.
Deputy Director, Wildlife and Habitat Protection Program, IFAW United States
Founding member, International Tiger Coalition
Senior News Editor, KSL-TV (NBC affiliate) United States
Language Instructor-Chinese, University of Utah United States
Producer, China Central Television China
Reporter Intern, Radio Beijing China
Master of Arts, Mass Communication University of Utah, United States
Bachelor of Arts, English and Journalism China Communications University, China