In this commitment, WCS will work with governments and other stakeholders of priority consumer countries to develop and implement demand reduction strategies, including social media campaigns on the causal link between the purchase of ivory products and the elephant poaching crisis in Africa. The overall aim is to change perceptions and purchasing practices in order to reduce consumption of and demand for ivory. WCS will have two core foci for the Commitment: the US and China. Their modus operandi will be somewhat different in the two countries. WCS's US-based effort through their new 96 Elephants campaign will raise awareness of the plight of elephants and the need for national and state legislation to address it. In China, WCS is coordinating a program that harnesses the power and influence of social media networks to engage Chinese public, mobilize influential corporations, strengthen policy and its implementation towards facilitating Chinese citizens to turn the tide, and curtail consumer intention to buy ivory by at least 25 percent by mid-2016.
WCS and partners will work together to reduce the demand for ivory among consumers by increasing awareness of the issues and providing mechanisms for civil society actors to take action. Partners pledge to take action to reduce stated intentions to purchase ivory in key markets by at least 25 percent by mid-2016. This will be achieved by: 1) in the US, a country-wide campaign, 96 Elephants, to raise consumer awareness, aimed ultimately at producing legislative change for ivory moratoria, additional funding for on-ground protection in Africa. As part of 96 Elephants, partner Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is developing two educational display concepts: the first, an exhibit template for AZA member institutions and the second involving the creation, design, and fabrication of a thought-provoking memorial (or series of memorials) constructed out of the six tons of ivory material recently crushed by the US to be displayed at AZA-accredited institutions, museums, airports, and other venues across America. 2) in China, through social media and online platforms, aim for 300,000 citizens to participate in online campaigns against ivory trade, also focusing on companies, aiming for 50 percent of top 500 companies based in China to take public pro-conservation actions by mid-2016, and at least 200 CSOs/NGOs in a common coordinated framework by mid-2014; 3) working with China's leading social intelligence provider, supplemented by WCS's own metrics, to provide the first proper baseline for evaluating evolving levels of awareness of and demand for ivory in China, and repeating the surveys annually as well as monitoring actions taken (number of tweets, re-tweets etc) in real time. In addition, National Geographic Society (and their partner GlobeScan) will conduct a consumer survey in key countries (e.g. Thailand, Viet Nam, Philippines) to optimally inform partner demand reduction advocacy and communication in each country.
As one of the world's most lucrative criminal activities, valued at -10 billion annually, the illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil, and counterfeiting. Increasing consumer demand for ivory, particularly in Asia is causing the price of ivory to skyrocket, driving the illegal trade in elephant ivory, and the mass slaughter of elephants in Africa. Today's ivory traffickers are primarily well-organized syndicates that operate as transnational criminal networks and often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons, and many have links with terrorist networks. The poachers not only threaten the lives of elephants, but also at least 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past ten years as they try to protect elephants and other wildlife.
African elephants are being lost at an unprecedented rate and demand for ivory shows no decline. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed illegally every year across Africa with some 35,000 lost in 2012 alone - that's an average of 96 elephants per day. African forest elephants in particular have been affected by poaching and have declined by 76 percent since 2002. There are now only about 80,000 remaining in the wild. A major challenge to stopping the trafficking is the lack of effective law enforcement controls along the trade chain from Africa, through the transit states, and to the end consumer markets. Legal domestic ivory markets are an enforcement challenge and often serve to provide cover for laundering of ivory from illegally killed elephants in Africa. Once ivory is within a country's borders, it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish legal from illegal ivory. As long as demand for ivory remains high and enforcement effort is low, the legal trade will continue to serve as a front and criminal syndicates will continue to drive elephant poaching across Africa. In order to save elephants, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and its partners are working to address the problem on three fronts: 1) Stop the killing; 2) Stop the trafficking; and 3) Stop the demand.
WCS seeks additional partners to provide financial or in-kind support, such as list acquisition or chaperoning and media collateral, to roll out demand reduction efforts in the US over the next three years.
Partners are offering financial resources, technical expertise, and other in-kind resources.