Problems caused by crimes against nature are increasingly attracting the attention of the world.
The United States Department of State has been very concerned with the problem of wildlife crime, which is not only harmful to biodiversity and individual animals but dangerous to human societies and an unrealized factor in political destabilization.
The recent Presidential Task Force on Combating Wildlife Trafficking is pretty clear in its mandate that the US government plays an important leadership role in battling this global problem, and the State Department must use all its diplomatic powers to catalyze political will and mobilize global support for the fight against wildlife trafficking.
The US government has long looked for guidance on such issues from NGOs like ours, which are dealing with these issues on a daily basis.
That is why I will take part in a Google+ Hangout, a live discussion sponsored by the US State Department on World Wildlife Day.
It is being broadcast online here on March 3 at 9:00 am ET.
I am honored to be on the panel with US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli, Kenyan Wildlife Conservationist and CEO of Wildlife Direct Dr. Paula Kahumbu, and Hong Haong, Executive Director for CHANGE, a Vietnam-based non-profit, moderated by WildAid Executive Director Peter Knights.
From poaching of African wildlife to trafficking their body parts to rising demand in Asia, we will no doubt discuss what urgent measures are needed to combat every link on this criminal trade chain.
Killing elephants and rhinos for the trade of their parts has reached epidemic proportions. The bloody trail leads to Asia, where the demand for elephant ivory and rhino horn have sky-rocketed, propelled by fast-growing economies, escalation in consuming power and the availability and accessibility of parts and products from endangered species on the marketplaces.
Investigations of ivory markets in China shows that legal ivory trade confuses consumers, removes stigma about ivory consumption, provides cover for ivory smuggling and illegal trade, hinders law enforcement and stimulates poaching of elephants in Africa.
As a partner in the USAID-supported Asia Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking program (ARREST), IFAW takes a comprehensive approach to reduce wildlife trade in China, by influencing both market supply and consumer demand.
IFAW's intelligence let to a Chinese government ban on the auction of ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone in 2011. The ban resulted in a 40 percent reduction of overall mainland auction sales in the following year.
IFAW has been working with e-commerce giant Alibaba and its Chinese subsidiary Taobao since 2007, encouraging the companies to ban the online trade of ivory, rhino horn, tiger bone, bear bile, pangolin scale and shark fin. Lead by Alibaba and Taobao, more Chinese online companies take a zero tolerance policy against online wildlife trade.
Making parts and products from endangered wildlife unavailable on the marketplaces combined with vigorous enforcement not only reduces wildlife trade but stigmatizes it, supporting the demand reduction efforts to change consumer behavior.
IFAW's "Mom, I have teeth" ivory demand reduction ad campaign successfully reduced the segment of Chinese population most likely to purchase ivory from 54 percent to 26 percent, according to a recent IFAW-commissioned survey by Rapid Asia.
Based on that success, IFAW's China office conceived and produced more culturally-appropriate and socially-motivating advertisements to call on consumers to reject wildlife trade. The campaign messages appeal to not only Chinese people's morality but appreciation for the traditional values of compassion and sustainability that unfortunately have been diminished in the modern world.
Over a dozen Key Opinion Leaders from various segment of the Chinese society have joined IFAW's campaign, mobilizing society to "Give Peace to Elephants, Say No to Ivory."
Through video and print PSAs, these KOLs collectively call on 1) individual consumers to reject ivory products, 2) the government to ban ivory trade, and 3) artists to stop carving ivory.
These PSAs have appeared both outdoors and indoors, online and offline in a media blitz across the country in the past few months.
It is made possible by support from over a dozen Chinese corporations and media agencies such JCDecaux China, Balintimes Media Group Co., Ltd., TOWONA Media Group, ifeng.com, youth.cn, hope.huanqiu.com, DEEP and LADY magazines. The media platforms and PSA placements provided to the IFAW campaign represent in-kind value in the tens of millions of US dollars.
Two of the world's largest economies, China and the US, share responsibilities for coming together to solve this urgent conservation crisis.
We must all understand the issues at hand and make a commitment to work together to fight wildlife crime and ensure that the world's wildlife heritage are protected.