ElephantVoices Blog

Monday, 02 June 2014 08:57



Conservationists urge the EU - the biggest exporter of so-called “old” ivory – to ban all ivory trade

Brussels/2 June 2014. On the eve of inter-governmental meetings in Brussels and Geneva in June and July to debate the fate of elephants, a group of conservation organisations requests all EU governments to urgently halt all commerce in ivory and to destroy all remaining stockpiles. New data shows escalating exports of ivory from the European Union to China and worldwide. The organisations warn that any legal loophole in ivory trade creates the opportunity to launder poached ivory into “legal” trade and thus fuels the killing of elephants.

"Weak European laws on ivory trading are a clear and present danger to Africa’s elephants, and a gift to poachers and smugglers who feed almost limitless demand for ivory in East Asia", says Daniela Freyer of Pro Wildlife.

Mary Rice, of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), added: "We are calling on EU countries to halt all ivory trade within, to and from the EU and strengthen enforcement. This includes measures to destroy their stockpiled ivory – both carvings and raw tusks - irrespective of its source and alleged age. We will only be able to end the elephant poaching crisis when the trade fuelling it is banned and demand curbed.”

Increased Exports of Ivory from Europe

Although the EU prides itself on supporting elephant conservation, recent figures show that the ivory trade is alive - and expanding. In 2012, ivory was second among smuggled wildlife goods in the EU and accounted for 14 per cent of all wildlife seizures. But there is also a burgeoning export of allegedly legal ivory, supplied with EU documents certifying it as ivory acquired before trade rules of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) applied - so-called “pre-Convention ivory”.

New figures prepared by Pro Wildlife from CITES data reveal the EU as the biggest exporter of such ivory, which is feeding the escalating demand. More than 20,000 carvings and 564 tusks were exported with official EU documents during the period 2003 and 2012, with the UK being the major exporter of carvings and France the major exporter of tusks, followed by Italy, Austria and Germany; 56 per cent of the tusks and almost 25 per cent of the carvings were exported to China and Hong Kong, the main markets for legal as well as illegal ivory. A comparison of import and export figures found import figures from China are much lower and do not match the EU export figures, casting grave doubt on the country's controls over the ivory trade.

Why all ivory trade has to stop

Sally Case, of the UK-based David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, says "Clearly, the legal and illegal ivory trade go hand in hand. Fresh ivory carvings are virtually indistinguishable from “antique” ones, thus making it easy to launder poached ivory into the “legal” trade with the help of legal loopholes. We are shocked that the UK turns out to be the biggest exporter of ivory carvings from Europe. This trade has to stop".

It is unclear how EU authorities can ensure the veracity of the documents they issue for "old" ivory. Moreover, traders in importing countries could re-use such documents to launder freshly poached ivory into trade.

 "The US, as a major exporter and importer of ivory traded under the "pre-convention" loophole, has announced new rules to halt this trade and destroyed its seized ivory. It is high time for the EU to show similar leadership,” say DJ Schubert (Animal Welfare Institute)

All markets with high ivory flows need to be closed down to end the killing of tens of thousands of elephants each year - -and the EU should lead by example,” adds Andrea Crosta (Elephant Action League).

Ivory auctioned for record prices in France

"Despite being one of the three countries in Europe which have destroyed seized ivory stockpiles in recent months, France is a hub of trade in tusks", states Charlotte Nithart of Robin des Bois. The French CITES authorities have provided certificates for the sale of 1.4 tonnes of "pre-Convention" ivory at two large auctions in March and May 2014. The ivory achieved record prices of up to €1000 per kilo. Buyers included Chinese citizens, which directly conflicts with assurances given to the EU that China did not accept imports of raw pre-Convention ivory. At the same time, evidence accepted by the EU’s own regulatory wildlife trade committee shows that forgeries of French CITES certificates were confirmed to be in circulation. 

European Ivory Trade Companies

Other EU countries are also seeing a revival of the ivory trade. European companies based in Germany and The Netherlands openly advertise services to buy and sell so-called pre-Convention ivory “with legal permits”, with China a major importer. A Danish auctioning company was fined for having illegally put elephant tusks up for sale in January 2014. 

In addition, there is an extensive individual trade in ivory in the EU via the internet. During a survey period of two weeks in 2013, a joint INTERPOL/International Fund for Animal Welfare investigation found 660 advertisements for ivory on 61 auction sites, accounting for 4,500kg (4.5 tonnes) of ivory valued at about €1.45 million. Most of the ivory was destined for East Asia. The report noted that only one EU country - the Czech Republic - has implemented national legislation on e-commerce for CITES protected species. Conservationists are demanding that the other EU countries agree to take similar measures when their wildlife trade officials meet in Brussels on 11 June.

Upcoming EU and international Meetings

On June 3, the EU Commission has invited stakeholders from conservation and trade organisations to a meeting in Brussels in preparation of the EU position for the CITES Standing Committee meeting. On June 11, representatives from CITES authorities of EU Member States will meet to discuss “Intra-EU trade and re-exports of ivory” and the EU position on elephants at the annual meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, convened by the UN in Geneva from July 7-11.

Chad, an African elephant range state, has submitted proposals, supported by The Philippines, calling on CITES to address the conservation crisis for elephants by taking tough new measures to destroy all ivory stockpiles and close existing loopholes such as exemptions for trade in ivory traded as pre-Convention or "personal effects", which fuel trade and may allow poached ivory to be laundered with CITES certificates.



Paul Newman, Environmental Investigation Agency, 44 (0)20 7354 7960
Charlotte Nithart, Robin des Bois, 33 1 48 04 09 36


Issued by: Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, Conservation Justice, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement), Elephant Action League, ElephantVoices, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Franz Weber Foundation, Hong Kong for Elephants, Pro Wildlife, Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas, Robin des Bois, Wild Africa



Background information:

The international trade in ivory was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989. However, since then CITES has permitted two "one-off" sales from legal government stockpiles in Southern Africa in 1999 and 2008. While the first sale went to Japan only, in 2008 China was for the first time permitted by CITES to import 68 tonnes of ivory, arguing that this would actually deter illegal trade and protect elephants in the wild.

However, recent data on ivory trade and elephant poaching show that the opposite has happened: African elephants are now being slaughtered for ivory on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s. More than 44 tonnes of ivory was seized by enforcement authorities worldwide in 2013 - the highest figure for 25 years. Up to 50,000 elephants are killed by poachers each year and populations in several regions are collapsing. Local and even global extinction of African elephants is facing us now, as a consequence of human demand for ivory. China is today the world’s biggest consumer of legal as well as illegal ivory.

Thursday, 03 April 2014 04:41

We are posting the speech by Professor Edward O. Wilson at the Opening of Laboratory of Biodiversity of Gorongosa in deep respect for Greg Carr, the Mozambiquen Government and the whole team of people working to protect Gorongosa National Park. The long-term, holistic approach taken by the Gorongosa Team working to restore an amazingly biodiverse ecosystem is admireable from many perspectives - and provides a model for other priceless habitats and species. What we will learn from Gorongosa may have an impact far and beyond, well symbolised through the Laboratory of Biodiversity just opened. 

We, admittedly, wish we were in Gorongosa for this milestone - and we really look forward to continue our elephant work there later in the year. We are proud to be part of the Gorongosa Team.

Joyce and Petter


Edward O. Wilson

The development of these wonderful facilities, along with the earlier inclusion of Gorongosa Mountain into the park and the rebuilding of the megafauna back to its pre-war strength, has been made a reality by Greg Carr and the government of Mozambique. It represents an advance not only in this country and Africa but the entire global environmental movement.

Edward O. Wilson examines an orb weaver spider web while collecting insects in Gorongosa National Park. (©Bob Poole)In essence, what it has achieved is to give a broader role in the global movement to the world’s nature parks and other natural history reserves. This development will help bring life back to humanity’s environmental conscience. Why do I put it this way? The world is becoming green. Environmental awareness has grown dramatically during the past several decades. However, the focus has fallen increasingly on the non-living part of the world, in other words on climate change, pollution, and the exhaustion of irreplaceable resources. At the same time attention has slipped away from the living part of Earth, called the biosphere, a layer of living organisms so thin it cannot be seen from the side by an orbiting space vehicle in orbit. The biosphere still has plenty of biomass, in other words the sheer weight of living tissue. Most of it is in the farms and timberlands that sustain the human species. What is declining is biodiversity, the variation of living organisms. Biodiversity exists at three levels: first, the ecosystems such as the lakes, streams, savanna, and dry forests of the Rift Valley and Cheringoma Plateau; then the species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that make up the ecosystems; and finally the genes that prescribe the traits that distinguish the species that make up the ecosystems. National Parks like Gorongosa play a major role in preserving the world’s biodiversity, and now, increasingly, by learning how to save it everywhere around the world.

How much biodiversity exists? To date two million species of plants, animals, and microorganisms have been discovered and given descriptions and formal names by biologists. Estimates, however, place the actual number at closer to ten million. When bacteria and other microbes are added, the number will soar much higher. Humanity, to put the matter as simply as possible, lives on a little known planet. We lack a sound idea of what our activities are doing to it.

This brings me to another important point relevant to this park. Gorongosa is so far, I believe, the only park in Africa, and one of only several in the entire world, to undertake a complete study to discover and identify all of the species of plants, animals, and microbes that make up its biodiversity—not just the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, and vegetation, but all of the insects, spiders, and other invertebrates as well. This project, led by Piotr Naskrecki, and utilizing the expertise of Marc Stalmans, has already turned up many new species, especially of insects. As it expands, the number of animal and plant species is bound to increase dramatically. As a comparison, consider the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the United States, where a similar effort has brought to light approximately 18,000 species.

We should learn as much as we can about these smaller creatures that I like to call “the little things that run the world.” Elephants, lions, and other mammals of course play vital roles in the ecology of Gorongosa, but they live upon a living platform of other, usually neglected plants and animals. I strongly believe that we should extend the term “wildlife” to cover all of the animals, large and small, that make up the ecosystems.

There is so much to learn for scientists and amateur naturalists at Gorongosa National Park of ecology, physiology, and other aspects of biology, and the physical environment of the park as well. This is an ideal place to pioneer the concept of nature parks throughout the world as centers for research and education. The center will be an asset not just for visitors but increasingly in time, of great value to the people of Mozambique. I’m proud to be a part of it, and I congratulate those who have created the center and now are set to make it an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Read more on Blog da Gorongosa - Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Lab Opens.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 19:37


For Immediate Release February 11, 2014

Ivory Trade Ban Essential to Save Elephants

As world leaders gather in London on 13 February to attend a summit – hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and attended by Prince Charles and Prince William – to confront the escalating poaching crisis decimating the world’s iconic wildlife, 23 environmental, conservation, and animal welfare groups from 14 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America demand a permanent ban on both domestic and international trade in ivory and the destruction of all government-held stocks.

Experts estimate approximately 50,000 elephants were killed in 2013 to satisfy the demand for ivory – largely from China. This level of poaching has not been seen since the 1980s. Without urgent action to end the ivory trade now, elephants may soon become extinct in parts of their range in Africa and Asia. The poaching is also devastating rural communities, sustaining terrorist groups and armed militias, and driving domestic conflict. Tragically, more than 1,000 rangers have lost their lives worldwide in the fight against poaching over the last decade, with untold impacts on their families. The human toll does not stop there. Vulnerable communities are being exploited by traffickers and drawn into criminal activities, while tourism is being compromised amid the decline in security.

Over the past six years, enforcement authorities in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have intercepted massive amounts of illegal ivory. In 2013 alone, at least 45 tonnes were seized. But considering that law enforcement experts estimate that 10 percent of illegally traded ivory is seized, far more has slipped through the net. Most of the illegal ivory is ending up in China to be sold as chopsticks, jewelry, and carvings. Japan also remains an important consumer of illegal ivory tusks through a government “registration” process, which every year legalizes tonnes of ivory of unknown origin.

Demand for ivory has been stimulated by two “experimental, one-off” sales approved by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) – of 49 tonnes in 1999 and 108 tonnes in 2008, all from government stocks in southern Africa. Despite strong opposition by many non-governmental organizations, the 2008 sale allowed China to purchase 62 tonnes, fueling demand for ivory among increasingly affluent Chinese citizens, driving prices up, and facilitating the laundering of massive quantities of illegal ivory as “legal”.

“There is broad agreement that legalizing ivory trade to China and Japan has been a huge mistake. We need to learn from history and permanently shut down all ivory trade – international and domestic”, says Mary Rice, Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency.

A 1989 ban on ivory trade largely halted the slaughter of elephants by slashing the price of ivory and substantially reducing poaching – allowing elephant populations to recover. However, this successful policy has been undermined not only by the two stockpile sales, but also by persistent discussions in CITES aimed at legalising trade over the long-term.

Reducing demand for wildlife products is one of the stated goals of the London summit on illegal wildlife trade. A parallel legal trade in ivory, however, will negate demand-reduction efforts.

“If world leaders are serious about ending the illegal ivory trade, they need to urgently implement an ivory trade ban. This includes closing down domestic ivory markets around the world, especially in China and Japan, and stopping the ongoing debate about legalizing ivory trade”, states Sally Case, Chief Executive Officer, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. “Anything else will only add to the elephant body count, and drive the African and Asian elephants closer to extinction, fuel more conflict, and sacrifice the lives of more rangers”. The legal domestic ivory market in China is considered to be the greatest threat to elephants.

The elephant poaching crisis has not gone unnoticed by governments. In the last three years Gabon, the Philippines, and the United States have destroyed confiscated ivory stockpiles. In January 2014, China destroyed a portion of its stockpile. France crushed 3.4 tonnes in February 2014. And Hong Kong, a key destination and transit country for illegal ivory, is set to follow suit, with plans to crush more than 28 tonnes of ivory. Moreover, in an attempt to address the crisis, there have been numerous discussions and high level meetings held, new initiatives announced, and commitments and declarations issued.

Yet, the poaching of elephants will continue as long as ivory is a legal commodity, driving demand. “No amount of rhetoric, money, or enforcement actions will save elephants unless there is an immediate, permanent, and comprehensive ban on the trade in ivory”, declares Charlotte Nithart, Director of Robin des Bois.


Mary Rice, Environmental Investigation Agency, +44 7810 640 532

Vicky Flynn, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, +44 (0) 1483 272323

Alex Kennaugh, Natural Resources Defense Council, +44 795 041 6353

Charlotte Nithart, Robin des Bois, +33 1 48 04 09 36

Supporting organizations:

Amboseli Trust for Elephants

Animal Welfare Institute

Ateneo School of Government

Conservation Justice

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Eco Activists for Governance & Law Enforcement

Elephant Action League

Elephant Family


Environmental Investigation Agency

Foundation Franz Weber

Hong Kong for Elephants

International Ranger Federation

Last Great Ape Organization

Natural Resources Defense Council

Projet d’Appui a l’Application de la Loi sur la Faune Sauvage

Pro Wildlife

Robin des Bois

The Thin Green Line Foundation

The Tsavo Trust


Youth for Conservation

Saturday, 26 October 2013 00:00

As many of our supporters know, for the last couple of years ElephantVoices has been working with team members in Brazil to promote and support progressive legislation to end the antiquated practice of performing elephants. A connected strategy has been to explore the development of an elephant sanctuary in Brazil. Many captive elephants in Brazil and other South American countries are in dire need of better welfare and living conditions. To help put an end to their suffering, a sanctuary in Brazil is urgently needed.

Recently, Scott Blais, co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and his partner, Katherine Blais, have established a new non-profit entity, Global Sanctuary for Elephants (GSfE), with financial and other support from ElephantVoices.

Dedicated to the development and support of progressive, holistic, natural habitat elephant sanctuaries internationally, GSfE will spearhead the exciting and, for elephants, important effort in Brazil. Brazil is for many reasons a well suited location for a sanctuary - with the climate, available habitats permitting natural foraging and social behavior, the potential of progressive policies and a our established team of enthusiastic volunteers being just a few.

A collaborative initiative with ambitious goals

Joyce (far left) and Petter with Ana Zinger and Junia Machado, ElephantVoices Brasil. Photo: ElephantVoices. With their vast experience with captive elephants, Scott and Katherine will take the lead on this initiative working closely with ElephantVoices Brazil, while ElephantVoices Directors, Petter Granli and Dr. Joyce Poole, will continue to provide advice and consult on all major developments. ElephantVoices Brazil, the team of volunteers led by Junia Machado, will coordinate all on-the-ground activities, working with Brazilian officials, investigating new opportunities including exploration of possible properties to develop, and they will continue to build the fundamental, professional relationships so essential to moving this project forward. Together we have agreed that Elephant Sanctuary Brazil (ESB) will be fostered under the guiding principles previously established by ElephantVoices and available on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles.

ElephantVoices cares deeply about the long-term health and welfare of captive elephants. We feel confident that under the direction of Scott and Katherine, Elephant Sanctuary Brazil will transform the future for elephants in South America while also serving as an international benchmark for other sanctuary-initiatives to emulate. To see ESB up and running will be like a dream coming true.

Lots of hard work ahead - Brazil has highest priority

As we now set out on the long road forward, several phases need to be developed and substantial funds need to be raised to bring Elephant Sanctuary Brazil to fruition. The first phase of development is for Scott and Kat to join ElephantVoices team members on the ground in Brazil to finalize plans moving forward, and to gather the basis for a sanctuary prospectus. While in Brazil, they will assess identified properties for potential development, meet with key government officials and Brazilian stakeholders and investigate construction options that will allow us to formalize the long-term financial needs and to formulate land acquisition and construction budgets.

In addition to human resources, ElephantVoices has committed $10,000 toward the $30,000 budget needed to fund this first phase and we have already received another $3,500 from supporting animal welfare groups. Now the project team will be working to secure the remaining $16,500 to expedite the first phase toward helping elephants in South America walk and live in sanctuary.


We urge you to consider supporting ESB and/or GSfE

For the past 20 years we have witnessed the tremendous impact of two iconic elephant sanctuaries in North America, The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) and Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), as they have transformed the lives of those lucky enough to find sanctuary. You can be a part of making that dream a reality for elephants throughout South America. With your support of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, together we can ensure that those elephants who have already served a life sentence performing, can soon find the peace, space and autonomy they need and deserve. We request the help of everyone (individuals, companies and animal welfare agencies alike) committed to working for a better quality of life for elephants to help raise the funds needed to move this pivotal first phase forward.

Please donate online through one of the links below:
Global Sanctuary for Elephants
Crowdfunding campaign for Elephant Sanctuary Brasil
ElephantVoices. If you donate through ElephantVoices, be certain to designate your funds for the Elephant Sanctuary Brazil Project on the dropdown menu.

Poor Semba passed away - we need to move forward NOW

Late elephant Semba.Over the past few weeks we’ve learned that Semba, a circus elephant who spent her life on the road across South America, and who we hoped would one day find freedom at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, passed away without warning. We don’t know any details about her cause of death, but we do know that her life will not be forgotten as we push forward with greater urgency to ensure that other captive elephants are offered a freedom Semba was denied.

Follow us on Facebook to hear more about the latest developments toward a compassionate future for elephants in Brazil and throughout South America. You'll find more information on:

- ElephantVoices
- Global Sanctuary for Elephants
- GSfE on facebook
- Elephant Sanctuary Brazil

For inquires or offers of assistance please contact:
in the U.S. – Scott Blais
in Brazil – Junia Machado

Friday, 05 July 2013 00:00

In June, faciliated by the Humane Society International, I was invited by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) to attend a two day meeting of 47 Chinese Zoo Directors in Shenzhen, China. My invitation followed the bad press that China received in relation to the importation of baby elephants from Zimbabwe late last year. At least one of these babies died and another became seriously ill. Zimbabwe had earlier given assurances that it would stop the capture of baby elephants for captivity and the news of the shipment and deaths and rumour that more babies were awaiting capture and export, prompted an international outcry.

The CAGZ was eager not to be caught up in such exposure again and I was asked to give a 90 minute presentation on the topic of "The Importance of Animal Behavior in Import Decisions". The trip to China offered an excellent opportunity to also speak about another topic involving elephants and China and Petter and I decided that I should extend my stay to include Hong Kong and Beijing to talk about elephants, poaching and the ivory trade.

I arrived in Hong Kong on the afternoon 14 June and that evening gave a lecture on elephants and the ivory trade at the Royal Geographical Society and an interview with Jennifer Ngo of the South China Morning Post (click for headline). Jennifer’s article was picked up by The Daily Mail and also the New York Times and Asia News.

The following morning, 15 June, I was interviewed by freelance journalist, Kate Whitehead, and by Joyee Chan, who wrote an article for the Young Readers edition of the South China Morning Post published on 2 July.

That afternoon in a Starbucks in Kowloon was the first meeting of a loose group of people who are keen to do something to stop the trafficking of ivory through Hong Kong and into China. In the photographs below from left to right Christian Pilard (Eco-Sys Action Foundation), Joyce Lau and Victoria Chin (both Jane Goodall Institute), Alex Hofford (Conservation Photo journalist), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices) and Iris Ho (Humane Society International). Alex took some photos while showing me a couple of ivory outlets in Hong Kong - I wasn't amused.

Celia Ho, the "Elephant Girl" arrived soon afterwards and we had a really nice meeting just the two of us, in which she presented me with an origami elephants with the words “Every Tusk Costs a Life, Don’t Buy Ivory” written on it.

The following morning, 16 June, Iris Ho and I took the train to the border and crossed into mainland China and on to the Zoo Director’s meeting in Shenzhen. I spoke to the Directors on 18 June, using the occasion to introduce the audience to elephant society and behavior, why the capture and importation of baby elephants is a very bad idea and why elephants don’t do well in captivity. You'll find my summary slide here. I also asked the Zoo Directors to educate their visitors not to buy ivory - but it is fair to say that they didn't particularly like the Every Tusk Costs a Life campaign artwork I showed them. I was forgiven, one of them said, for not knowing that the artwork spelled China in Mandarin...

On 19th I flew from Shenzhen in southern China to Beijing, where I spent the last four days of my China trip, primarily in the care of IFAW and, most particularly, Qi Zhang, or “Sabrina”. She came to meet me at my hotel that evening and took me on my only real touristic experience, which was a delicious meal at a classic Chinese restaurant, a visit to Tianamen Square and a drive through a hutong by bicycle rickshaw.

On the morning 20th I was met at my hotel by Chunmei Hu, a young Chinese student who has just graduated from Veterinary School and hopes to work in an animal rescue center. I had "met" Chunmei via email earlier in the year when the news of the death of the Zimbabwean baby elephant broke in China and made waves around the world. Chunmei and I have been corresponding since then about the plight of elephants in Chinese Zoos, and she wanted me to speak at a symposium of Zoo Watch China. She took me out to lunch prior to the gathering where I met some of her animal welfare colleagues including Prof. Ping Mang from the Academy of Chinese Culture.

Professor Mang coordinated the symposium which included several presentations on the state of elephants in Chinese Zoos as well as some of the legal problems related to the law - or lack thereof - for animal protection. The photographs and videos that were shown were completely heartbreaking. It may be a good thing that I didn’t see them before I gave my talk to the Zoo Directors. I had been given clear instructions not to mention any Chinese elephant welfare examples, to avoid embarrassing the Directors, but I don’t think I would have been able to keep silent had I seen the images first. The symposium was well attended by journalists and I gave a couple of interviews after the Symposium including with China Daily, also covered in it's US version and the Global Times.

The schedule of 21 June began at 10:00 a.m. with a meeting with the Head of the Department of Wild Animal Protection and the Head and Deputy Head of the Division of Wild Animal Conservation and Management to discuss the ivory trade. It took quite a bit of effort to achieve the meeting and I had been forewarned that this Ministry, which is home to both the CITES Managament Authority and the CAZG, is known for being very conservative on issues related to animal welfare and ivory trade. When I broached the topic of China’s involvement in the illegal ivory trade they responded with a list of arguments that can only be read as denial.

For example, I was told that since 1900 colonials killed 8 million of Africa’s elephants; that some 800 tons of ivory is being traded on the Internet by the United States and other countries masquerading as pre-ban ivory; China has very good law enforcement/regulations and, therefore, it is not China that is at fault, but her neighboring countries; rumors of the hoarding of ivory and rumors of high prices are killing the elephant, not China (i.e. it is rumor-mongering that is leading to escalated poaching not facts); and when I asked how they were going to meet CITES recommendation to reduce demand, I was told that China has good education to restrict people to purchasing just legal stock.

The meeting was useful in that I learned that to change the status quo we cannot rely on bureaucrats associated with China's CITES Management Authority. I was reminded again that CITES is an international body mandated to regulate trade in wildlife products; it is not a wildlife conservation body. These individuals are too pro trade to be able to admit that their Ministry is failing to control the ivory trade, nor to be able to see that that failure is ruining China’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

The meeting was followed by four interviews all organized by IFAW China - the first with CCTV, followed by a radio interview with China Radio International, then another with China Daily and, finally, an unusual and interesting interview with an engaging journalist, Gao Wenxing, of the China Philanthropy Times, which falls under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In the meantime, on the same day, far away in the Philippines, the crushing of a five-ton ivory stockpile was underway. This event was covered by the New York Times, which made mention of my trip.

On my last day in Beijing, 22 June, I gave a final lecture which was held in the Auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences. The event was organized by IFAW and their team coordinated by Sabrina did a fantastic job. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up to the Academy of Sciences and there, attached securely to the side of the building, was the most enormous banner announcing the lecture with pictures of elephants and me:-).

As I was speaking to the interpreter in a side room, the air suddenly began to vibrate with the sound of “Ele-Beats”. Sabrina had found it on our website and downloaded it for people to listen to as they registered. There was no need to check the sound system – the woofers were certainly fit for low frequency elephant rumbles! When I walked into the 300-seat auditorium I had my next surprise. The screen was enormous – stretching the entire width of the room and Sabrina and the IFAW team had put together a slide show of elephants and the history of Joyce. I was astonished!

As “Ele-Beats” played on and on (and on!), the auditorium gradually filled up with parents and small children, primary school and secondary school students, teachers, scientists, professors, members of the press and Li Bingbing’s assistant, Eline, whom I had been looking forward to meeting. And then it was time to speak to this vibrant crowd.

Grace Gabriel had organized a panel discussion afterwards and time for Q&A. So when I had finished speaking Grace, Jie Yu of the Nature Conservancy (who co-sponsored the talk with IFAW) and CCTV Host, Yue Zhang, (introduced to me as "China’s Oprah Winfrey" as I was to soon understood why!), joined me on stage. Yue Zhang spoke passionately about elephants and other animals and did a fantastic job of leading the questions and keeping the discussion lively. That hour-long Q&A was my next China surprise. I was blown-away by the caliber of questions from the audience – from both young and old, layman and professional. I have given many talks, but this was the most intelligent and compassionate audience I have ever had the pleasure to engage with.

So what did I learn and ElephantVoices achieve? And what can YOU do? I went to China not knowing what to expect. I, admittedly, went in despair over the elephant poaching horror and China's key role in it confirmed by facts and figures of ivory shipments from well reputed sources. The sad situation simply cannot be denied, even though many government officials are trying to do so. I am more convinced than ever before that ALL trade must be banned, to send the clear signals so much needed.

It is obviously impossible to know if my lectures, meetings and the many headlines that have followed have made any impression on those in power. However, having met so many outward and forward looking, curious people who care deeply about the world they inhabit, I have come away with more optimism.

We all know that the effort to educate people about the connection between the purchase of ivory and the killing of elephants needs to be widespread and massive. And we urgently need the Chinese government to be loud and clear in communicating that it is shameful and embarrassing for China to be seen by the global community as responsible for the buying of body parts that, accumulated, leaves tens of thousands of elephants dead in Africa every year. As a colossal investor in Africa, China has a lot to lose if the death and destruction continues. We can only dare to hope that those behind China's new "soft power" approach will take the lead in turning the fate of elephants around. We will all lose part of our pride, and our soul, if the killing of elephants doesn't stop.

You can be part of the tsunami needed to create change - to save elephants. You may not be able to inspire more diplomatic approaches, but you can write on Facebook, get a friend to post on Weibo, contact your politician, talk to a journalist - and participate in upcoming marches and other arrangements focusing on the ivory trade and what urgently should be done. In any way you can, try to ensure that the message is shared in a medium that can reach someone in China. Please include information that people should know about in that regard in the comment field below this blog post. Your suggestions and thoughts are welcome!

I'd like to send a warm Thank You to all my new friends in Hong Kong and mainland China - the hospitality and kind and efficient efforts by so many made a huge difference to my busy program. A special thank you to Jacqueline and William Furniss for hosting me in Hong Kong, and to the Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare for inspiration and support.

Joyce signature.