Elephant figure in Beijing shopping mall to raise protectionist awareness



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An electrically-controlled elephant figure has been put in a shopping mall in downtown Beijing. It is part of a public awareness campaign of the International Fund of Animal Welfare to protect elephants.
Zhang Wan has the story.
People in Beijing are now able to touch and play with a cute electrically-controled elephant inside this shopping mall.
IFAW communication officer Zhang Qi says people can actually communicate with Elephant Laura with stomps and even take a shower with her.
People in Beijing are now able to touch and play with a cute electrically-controled elephant inside a shopping mall. [Photo provided to Newsplusradio.cn]
Laura is an elephant full of stories. A book about her and her family has hit shop and library bookshelves in China. Now people both familiar and unfamiliar with her stories can get a close look at her legendary journey of life and escape from smugglers.
“I am Xie Wenxuan. I am 9 years old and I am a third grader. Killing elephants and trading ivory is wrong.”
“We are not capable of actually doing something for them over in Africa, but we can do our best to tell people their stories.”
“I didn’t know ivories come from dead elephants, now I’ll tell my friends never consume ivory any more.”
Grace Ge is the Asia Regional Director of IFAW. She says illegal ivory trade in Africa remains alarming.
“In Africa, Elephants are being killed for the ivory trade. And it’s very alarming, their populations, they’re disappearing. Every link on this chain, from poaching to trafficking of ivory to consuming ivory is full of blood, it’s stained with elephant blood. So we need to smash every link on the chain.”
The latest figures from IFAW estimate that at least 10-thousand elephants have been killed in Africa in the past three years.
UN figures also suggest that at least 60 percent of the deaths of elephants in Africa in the past decade were caused by poaching. In some places, this number could be as high as 90 percent.
Grace Ge started the campaign to raise people’s awareness of protecting elephants five years ago. Apart from the public awareness campaign, her organization has also been working on providing information to law enforcement departments.
Ge says although the public awareness about the issue has been improved, it is still far from satisfied.
“We did a survey where we found that 70 percent did not even know ivory comes from dead elephants. But in the same survey we found that 82% people would not consume ivory if they had known.”
“My name is Paul. I am from Malaysia. I was involved in animal protection before. I used to be a wildlife biologist before. We used to protect wildlife in the forests.”
Wildlife expert Paul Henry is among the observers of elephant Laura. He says he can still remember clearly the day when he came across a group of 7 elephants swimming across the lake in one of the national parks in Malaysia. He says that was one of the most exciting moments in his career.
He is now taking a masters qualification at the School of Environment of Tsinghua University.
He says the organizers did a great job when it comes to raising people’s awareness.
“When the buying stops, the hunting stops as well. If there is a market for wildlife parts, the hunting will definitely be going on.”
Grace Ge echoes this view, adding in fact, ivory smuggling is proving to be with little effect on supporting local economy and creating job opportunities.
“There is no art in it. There is no skill in it. A lot of them are very crude. People today value ivory as a kind of material, not as a skill of carving.”
Some other wildlife experts also argue that illegal ivory trading can be actually destructive to local economy, since it can make the country look bad to tourists and hurt the backbone of many African economies – tourism.
Ge says the government should put stricter laws on illegal ivory trading so as to cut off the source of the business.
“Because consumers cannot tell which is legal ivory and which is illegal ivory. Once illegal ivory gets smuggled into China and sold in the market, the consumers would not able to tell and law enforcement officers could not tell. And that gives cover for traffickers to smuggle ivory into a legal market.”
A girl is signing her name on the board says “Say no to ivory products.” [Photo provided to Newsplusradio.cn]
As a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna or CITES, China has stepped up efforts in curtailing ivory smuggling. Government figures show the number of illegal wildlife smuggling cases last year dropped 70 percent from the year earlier.
For Studio+, I’m Zhang Wan.