By Elaine Hou
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Thursday launched a program, in partnership with six Taiwanese museums, to raise awareness of wildlife trafficking and reduce demand for illegal animal products in Asia.
One of key aspects of the "Culture, Conservation" program is to educate consumers and make it clear that buying ivory products imperils the existence of animals such as elephants and rhinoceroses, said Christopher Marut, director of AIT's Taipei Office.
The slaughter of majestic wildlife needs to be stopped as it not only threatens the species but also upsets the ecological balance of their native habitats, he said at the launch of the program.
"The program builds on the joint efforts by the United States and Taiwan to curb wildlife trafficking," Marut said.
As part of the program, six Taiwanese museums have agreed to display their ivory treasures, while at the same time sharing information that would raise public awareness of the hazards of wildlife trafficking, he said.
The initiative has the potential to reach millions of visitors from around the world with this message, Marut said.
The museums possess exquisite historical ivory artifacts, but these are products from another time, Marut noted, adding that in today's world, museums should be the only place where ivory collections are kept.
He said that over the past few years, there has been an unprecedented decimation of elephant, rhino and other animal populations as newly affluent consumers -- many in Asia -- have dramatically increased global demand for products made from illegally trafficked elephant tusks and rhino horn.
Purchasing new ivory products for one's own consumption is a practice that must end, Marut said.
To this end, the Taiwanese museums participating in the program are displaying posters that remind visitors never to buy ivory products.
The posters carry the slogan "Ivory Collections Only Belong in Museums."
"On Dec. 20, 2013, the United Nations declared every March 3rd as World Wildlife Day, while calling on people around the world to protect endangered wildlife. To save the elephants and rhinos from extinction, everyone must do their part," the posters read.
The museums participating in the program are the National Palace Museum, National Museum of History, National Museum of Natural Science, National Taiwan Museum, National Museum of Prehistory, and National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.
AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diploamtic ties.