Chinese Actress Li Bingbing joins Save the Elephants in the war against the Ivory trade


Save the Elephants

Date Published

Save the Elephants has been unrelenting in its mission to reach out to the Chinese people in an effort to reduce the demand for ivory and stop the illegal killing of elephants.

This week we hosted the film actress Li Bingbing, one of China’s most popular celebrities and a rising Hollywood star, in our research centre and at Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu. Bingbing was enthralled to meet live elephants, and came to tears at the sight of a poached matriarch.

On her three-day visit to Kenya, the stunning UNEP goodwill ambassador visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where she met baby elephants, many of whom had been orphaned by rampant poaching. She then went to visit the Kenya Wildlife Service, talk with their Director and pay her respects to the many rangers who have given their lives in defence of the nation’s wildlife. Bingbing later spoke at a press conference at UNEP along with Save the Elephants CEO, Iain Douglas Hamilton, UNEP’s Executive Director, Wildlife Direct CEO, Ministry of Environment Permanent Secretary and KWS Head of Species Conservation and Management. “Many consumers in Asia do not realize that by buying ivory, they are playing a role in the illegal wildlife trade and its serious consequences,” Bingbing said.

In Samburu, our head of field research, David Daballen, introduced Bingbing to the “Royals” – a magnificent elephant family 40 strong – who came to within a few feet of her car. Early the next morning, Bingbing came face-to-face with a poached female whose carcass was in the shade of a small tree where she’d laid down to die from her wounds. All around her in a tight circle was the evidence of many elephant families who had surrounded her, as she lay dying or dead. At 40 years old she was most likely the matriarch, which means that her family will now be in disarray without her leadership and it is likely that she also had a dependent calf that will now perish without her milk.

Bingbing was devastated, by the loss of the mother, an innocent baby who did not even have ivory, and that despite all of the work being done by anti-poaching teams and STE the killing was on-going. “I want to spread the message that we should stop the killing because there’s blood slaughter and a poaching crisis happening behind the beautiful carvings and jewelry, “ she said, emphasizing the role citizens and the business community can play in bringing an end to poaching by “saying no to ivory products.”

Li Bingbing, who was recently named ‘Asian Star of the Year’ by Variety magazine, not only met the elephants, but also the people who have lived with and protected them for generations – many of whom are now on the front line of the anti-poaching war working as rangers. She received a tribal blessing from Samburu elders, and was painted with the markings of a morani on her face, then whisked off to dance with warriors under the setting sun.

She was given the name Sampiripiri by the Samburu which means butterfly, in the belief that the joy she felt amongst elephants and her cry against poaching will have a “butterfly effect” – creating a hurricane of change in ivory markets across the world to turn the tide of demand and bring an end to the killing of elephants.


A CCTV report on Bingbing’s visit to Samburu:

Bingbing getting emotional:

Bingbing speaking about elephants in Chinese…