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WildAid Trains Guangzhou Customs to Fight Smuggling

Over the past three decades, China’s seafood consumption has more than tripled, surpassing both Japan and the United States as the world’s largest consumer, producer and importer/exporter of fish and shellfish. High demand among a growing middle class also has fueled illegal fishing and smuggling of many protected marine species.

Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in southern China, is a key port for seafood shipments, and a primary market for such products as manta ray gill rakers and shark fin. Local customs officers are tasked with inspecting a high volume of shipments at ports as well as surveilling markets for illegal products. To help them improve detections of illegal wildlife species, WildAid, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Guangdong Fisheries Law Enforcement recently co-hosted a training for 80 customs and enforcement officers in Guangzhou.

The main purpose of this training was to help agents to quickly identify products from eight protected species, including manta gill rakers (known as peng yu sai), shark fin and the swim bladder of the totoaba — a critically endangered fish indigenous to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.  The totoaba swim bladders are smuggled from Mexico.  

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Wildlife Groups Urge Japanese PM to Halt Ivory Trade

A walk in the setting sun, photo by Poulomee Basu

With Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the US this week for White House talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as other meetings and events around the country, WildAid has joined a global coalition of conservation groups in calling on the Japanese PM to ban the domestic elephant ivory trade.

Japan has faced criticism in recent years for weak controls over the trade and a proliferation of online sales, with evidence of illegal ivory laundered into the legal domestic market. “Demand for ivory from Japan continues to drive ivory poaching in Africa, and the government must do much more to reduce it," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said. "When the buying stops, the killing can too."

Here's the full coalition letter:

Re: Statement of Concern to Prime Minister Abe of Japan Regarding Japan’s Ivory Trade and the Decimation of Africa’s Forest and Savanna Elephants

Dear Your Excellency Prime Minister Abe:

As a signatory to the London Declaration and the Kasane Statement on Illegal Wildlife Trade, we the undersigned organizations are writing to request that Japan take a leadership role in the fight against the illegal trade in ivory. In light of the global elephant poaching crisis, we respectfully ask you to ban the domestic ivory trade in Japan with immediate effect in order to save Africa’s remaining wild elephants. Our concerns are as follows:

Since 1970, Japan has imported ivory from more than 250,0001 African elephants, much of this from tusks that were illegally acquired through the poaching of wild elephants. Japan has also twice been granted permission to buy ivory despite the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1989 ban on international commercial trade in African elephant ivory, which was adopted in response to the global elephant poaching crisis of the 1970s-80s.2 In 1997, Japan secured CITES-approved ivory sales of nearly 50 tonnes of ivory from Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. In 2008, Japan was allowed to import a further 48 tonnes of ivory. 

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'Last Days' Wins a Webby Award

Last Days

Good news: Last Days, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's short film on the illegal ivory trade's dark connections to terrorist groups and organized crime, has won a 2015 Webby Award in the Activism category. 

Congrats to Kathryn Bigelow, Annapurna Pictures and the Last Days team! You can check out the film below. 

Last Days also is a winner of The Humane Society of the United States' Genesis Award for Best Short Film.

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Working to Protect Barbuda’s Marine Ecosystems

Last year, officials on the small Caribbean island of Barbuda signed into law a sweeping set of regulations to protect its marine ecosystems. According to the Waitt Institute, on average 80 percent of Barbuda's coral reefs are covered in algae, with only 2.6 percent living coral. These new regulations established multiple new marine sanctuaries as well as a moratorium on catch of algae-eating species, namely parrotfish and sea urchins.

To assist in enforcement strategy of these protected areas, the Waitt Institute’s Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative recently invited WildAid to deliver a three-day seminar for 19 Antigua-Barbuda marine patrol officers, park rangers, police officers and Coast Guard staff. Training included in-class discussion, small group work and problem-solving activities built around operations planning, use of patrol assets/equipment and boarding exercises.

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Origin Magazine Features WildAid's Corie and Peter Knights

The latest issue of Origin Magazine features a great Q&A with WildAid's Peter and Corie Knights, interviewed among a who's who of conservationists and humanitarians. (Click on the image to enlarge.) Thanks, Origin!


Google.org Will Match Your Gift to WildAid!

Update: We have met our goal for the Google.org Earth Day $20K matching gift challenge! Thank you to all who contributed. While this challenge is now closed, you can always make a tax-deductible contribution to WildAid by clicking here.

Happy Earth Day!

To celebrate Earth Day’s 45th anniversary, Google.org is matching donations made to WildAid up to $20,000 through April 30. Here, WildAid ambassador Maggie Q gives you a rundown on this great opportunity. Your gift will help to support WildAid programs, from marine conservation to elephants, tigers and rhinos. And you can join Maggie to find out what animal you are by taking the Google Doodle Earth Day Quiz.

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Another Study Finds Declining Demand for Shark Fin

In 2014, WildAid published research indicating a significant decline in the shark fin trade: Vendors in China reported a 50 to 70 percent drop in sales over the past two years, with prices dropping by half. About 85 percent of consumers surveyed in China said they had stopped eating shark fin soup, and nearly two-thirds of those cited public awareness campaigns such as those featuring WildAid ambassador Yao Ming as a primary reason for doing so.

New research released this week from Hong Kong reports a similar trend. According to a study co-authored by the marine conservation group BLOOM and the Social Sciences Research Centre of The University of Hong Kong, nearly 70 percent of Hong Kong residents polled said they had cut back on shark fin soup — or they had stopped eating it altogether, in what was formerly the epicenter of shark fin consumption. 

Perhaps even more encouraging, over 90 percent of residents said they believed the Hong Kong government should ban the sale of wildlife products that involve killing endangered animals, echoing WildAid’s findings that 95% of mainland Chinese surveyed supported bans on ivory sales. 

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WildAid to Hong Kong: Stop Ivory Imports that Fuel Poaching

To fight the illegal ivory trade that’s fueling an elephant poaching epidemic in Africa, WildAid has joined a coalition of 45 international elephant conservation and animal welfare groups in calling on the Hong Kong Government to stop issuing any new import licenses and re-export licenses for pre-Convention elephant ivory.

What does this mean, and how might this action help save Africa’s elephants?

“Pre-Convention” ivory refers to ivory that was in circulation prior to the 1975 establishment of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The European Union is the primary exporter of alleged pre-Convention ivory, much of it imported by Hong Kong with the ultimate destination being mainland China ivory carving factories. 

But Hong Kong's ivory traders are routinely exploiting legal loopholes in the Hong Kong law which is enabling them to legally import raw and cut elephant tusks from Europe and then launder recently poached ivory taken from illegally-killed elephants into the legal market using government supplied paperwork

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Maggie Q Visits Vietnam to Help Save the Rhino from Extinction

With its status symbol allure and alleged medicinal properties, rhino horn is a luxury item in Vietnam, a primary market for horn that’s driving the slaughter of rhinos in Africa.

That’s why in 2014, WildAid and our conservation partners launched “Stop Using Rhino Horn," a three-year campaign with support and cooperation from the government as well as business leaders and media partners, who have contributed $1.6 million in donated media that has reached millions of consumers.

On Friday, WildAid’s Vietnam team welcomed actor Maggie Q, star of the hit CBS TV series "Stalker," and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Claire A. Pierangelo to a launch event in Hanoi for the second year of Stop Using Rhino Horn, which now boasts over 40 Vietnamese celebrities spreading this important message.

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