China and the US meet in Beijing to further cement their commitment to end the ivory crisis


Frank Pope – COO

Date Published

Chinese Vice Premier Liu emphasised his government’s commitment to protecting elephants at a high level meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Beijing this week. Yao Ming, former basketball player and China’s biggest star, was also in attendance.

Both Vice Premier Liu and Secretary Kerry acknowledged the urgency of strengthening international cooperation on the ivory issue at the Combatting Wildlife Trafficking event on Wednesday 9th July, held during the sixth joint meeting of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi opened the meeting with mention of the concept of Ecological Civilisation whereby humans can only be civilized if they live in harmony with nature.

“The planet Earth is a common home to the mankind and to the nature. To protect wildlife is an effort to protect our partners and neighbors on this planet Earth, and that we should not allow the human being to become the only and lonely residents of this planet Earth,” Councillor Yang said.

“During this round of dialogue our respective agencies have had productive consultation on combating wildlife trafficking… In the future, China will continue to resolutely fight against the illegal trading of ivory and related products,” he continued.

Secretary Kerry saluted Yao Ming (pointing the 7 ½ foot star out to the assembled audience as the ‘small guy sitting up here in front’) for his personal commitment to the cause. “Yao has personally seen the ravages of this particular crime. He has visited Africa, he has seen, particularly, the bodies of dead elephants,” he said.

Save the Elephants introduced Yao Ming to the wonder of wild elephants and the horror of poaching when he visited Kenya. WildAid, pioneers in using celebrities to share awareness of wildlife issues with China, organized his tour of Africa, and are producing a feature-length documentary of his trip (see trailer here).

Secretary Kerry pegged his own interest in the issue to an African safari he had made with his wife. It was this that caused him to convene the first ever Senate wildlife trafficking hearing. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, testified at the event.

“Ivory has become the new blood diamond,” Secretary Kerry continued. “Each of us have a responsibility to combat this. It is, frankly, one of the most tragic and outrageous assaults on our shared sense of global responsibility, responsibility for the environment, responsibility for the species.”

Save the Elephants has long advocated joint American-Chinese leadership to solve the problem of excessive killing of elephants for ivory.

“All measures to stop the killing of elephants and stop the trafficking of ivory will fail unless demand for ivory is greatly reduced,” said Dr Douglas-Hamilton. “The main demand comes from China, and the Chinese hold the key to the future of elephants. Conservationists in Africa need to share awareness with the Chinese that unless human beings stop buying ivory that elephants will be greatly diminished and in some countries will become extinct”.

The ‘skyrocketing’ price of ivory was of particular concern, he said, and pointed towards the need for greater efforts to reduce demand. Last week Save the Elephants announced a study revealing that the average retail price of ivory in China has tripled in the last four years.

Vice Premier Liu also saluted Yao Ming’s work defending the world’s wildlife, and made mention of Liu Xiao Ling Tong, a famous Chinese actor who once played the Monkey King. This wise and powerful character of Chinese legend promotes the need to protect the environment and wildlife.

“China has advocated harmony between man and nature, and believe that mankind and animals and plants are part of the nature. To protect the wildlife is to protect the homeland of mankind, and also human civilizations,” said Vice Premier Liu.

Strict law enforcement against illegal ivory sales was promised, as was continued close collaboration with the US and other members of international community. Both China and the US have destroyed around 6 tonnes of seized ivory, signaling a determination to stamp out the illegal trade.

“I hope this event will encourage more people in our two countries to be involved in the protecting of wildlife, enhance our cooperation in this area, and open new prospects in combating illegal trading of wildlife, so as to guard our common home, the Earth, and make more contribution to harmony between man and nature,” Vice Premier Liu concluded.

In 2013 Save the Elephants has launched an Elephant Crisis Fund in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Network to support the most urgent and effective projects to stop the poaching, stop the trafficking and stop demand for ivory. 100% of funds reach the project, and donations are matched dollar for dollar to double their impact on the ground.

Watch a short video on the meeting here.