By Bryan Harris
Naturalists and celebrities sign letter urging Beijing to do more to curtail deadly trade, which they believe could drive elephants to the point of extinction within the next ten years
Renowned British naturalist David Attenborough has joined with a host of luminaries, including comedian Ricky Gervais and conservationist Richard Leakey, to urge the Chinese leadership to end the ivory trade.
The men are among a group of some 70 high-profile names who have signed an open letter to president Xi Jinping, asking him to outlaw the trade and educate citizens “about the true deadly cost of ivory”.
“The elephants of Africa are dying in their tens of thousands every year to provide ivory for misguided consumers in China and elsewhere. Without your help, they will continue to perish and be pushed towards extinction,” read the letter, which includes signatures from 39 members of the British parliament.
“Now the world is looking to you, Mr President, and to your great country, to take action to end all ivory trade in China.”
The plea comes at a convenient moment for pro-Beijing Hong Kong lawmaker Conservationist Richard Leakey, who is currently lobbying for a complete ban on the mainland ivory trade.
Quat said the proposal had been met with considerable support and could be discussed at the National People’s Congress parliamentary session in Beijing next month.
China is considered the world’s largest consumer market for ivory, with the precious “white gold” viewed by many as a status symbol.
Increasing wealth has sparked greater demand, which has meant more elephant poaching in source countries. Animal activists fear the situation could leave the species extinct within the next decade.
Visiting Hong Kong earlier this month, Leakey – arguably the world’s most famous elephant conservationist – acknowledged that traditional thinking had a role to play in supporting the trade and suggested education was key to finding a solution.
“I think traditional values is an argument you can’t ignore, but which tradition has a permanence? I would have thought with the internet and social media today, everyone is forced to change,” said the 70-year-old Kenyan.
“Ignorance is what is making ivory valuable … Traditions on the role of women have changed and are changing rapidly. The same applies when we talk about ivory.”