Fighting the ivory trade
When our group was founded in October 2013, elephants were being massacred across Africa at the rate of 100 each day. There was little media coverage, there were few laws against poaching, and there was no political will to save them. No one was speaking out against China and its hunger for ivory, so, with our group just a few weeks old, we gathered outside the Chinese embassy in London and held our first protest to put China under the spotlight. Our protest gained media coverage in national newspapers and on ITV News.
Our first protest at the Chinese embassy, London, in Jan 2014
Over the next five years we held 14 protests and marches calling for bans on ivory trade. Our open letter to the Chinese premier in 2015, asking him to end China’s ivory trade, was signed by David Attenborough, Richard Leakey, Jane Goodall, and many more, and was reported in the press internationally. Our efforts were also acknowledged by Prince William in a letter to us – he was in China at the time, also addressing the ivory trade. All of this helped to draw widespread attention to the poaching crisis and ivory trade and to send a strong message to President Xi that the world was watching.
As momentum grew, it was clear that the wave of protests was having an impact. The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos held its first march in 2014, uniting thousands of people around the world in protest against ivory and rhino horn trade, and calling for world governments to take a stand against poaching. The value of the marches was even noted the following year by the ShareAmerica government platform, which said: ‘According to experts, these marches keep political pressure on leaders to protect the world’s largest land animal.’
Sooner than anyone thought possible, both China and the US took the historic decision to end their domestic ivory trades – the US did so in 2016 and China closed its trade at the end of 2017. These historic bans, it was hoped, would offer a real lifeline for elephants.