Four Activists Stopping the Ivory Trade in China

June 19, 20130 Comments

If you’ve read Cedar Attanasio’s Supply/Demand series on China and Africa, you know that the ivory trade is out of control in that country. But there are committed activists doing something about it. In this post, we share just four stories of Chinese citizens speaking up against the ivory trade.

Yao Ming: The Athlete

China’s biggest basketball star has been busy in retirement, managing a team of his own and mentoring upcoming players. But he’s still found time to lead a campaign against the ivory trade. His goal is to reduce the demand for ivory in China through a public information campaign. As China’s biggest sports star, he’s getting a lot of attention. Working with WildAid, he made the video at the top of this page.

He’s also joined by fellow NBA star Carmelo Anthony in this WildAid PSA.

You can check out Yao Ming’s Journey to Africa blog here, as well as a longer reflection he wrote about his work with WildAid called “Lesson on Extinction.

Celia Ho: The Youth Activist

Celia started a grassroots movement amongst the schools in Hong Kong at just 14 years old. She was inspired by reading the article “Blood Ivory” in National Geographic Magazine. Celia learned that Hong Kong is one of the major gateways for illegal ivory coming from Africa and Southeast Asia. Saddened to know that her city was so complacent to the ivory trade, she wrote a letter to one of the leading newspapers in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post.

She continued to write and organize in schools and on Her Facebook page is very active, and has almost a thousand likes. You can see her excellent posts and links on her Facebook page. She recently wrote “Saving Elephants One School at a Time” for the National Geographic Daily News. Her online organizing has really paid off. She now has 40 schools and over 60 organizations supporting her cause.

Bingbing Li: The Actress

“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,” says actress Bingbing Li, in an interview with

One of the most recognized faces in contemporary Chinese cinema, Li is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in China. She’s won the Chinese equivalent for best actress for her work in that country. You can see her in the American film “Resident Evil: Retribution,” or next year in a still untitled Transformers sequel.

There’s a great video online that says everything you need to know about Li and elephants. It’s cut of a documentary shot for the UNEP. In the film, Li watches elephants eat and play in a nature reserve. Then park rangers take her to the corpse of an elephant, a decomposing giant killed for its tusks. She doesn’t over intellectualize or shout. She pauses… and then starts to cry, tears welling up under her eyes.

“It’s very, very sad,” she says. I don’t know what we can do. But we just want to say: ‘don’t do that.’ It’s so sad.”

Dr. Ian Douglas-Hamilton, another character in the documentary, articulates the emotional truth behind Li’s tears.

“Li Bingbing understands,” he says. “And she feels, and she translates that emotion to the world and to China.”

Wan Ziming: The Government Official

Ziming is Beijing’s director of the Enforcement and Training Division for the department that protects endangered species. In this role, he is the public face of the Chinese government’s efforts to enforce the CITES in China. He is the man behind some of China’s more sincere efforts to stop the ivory trade.

For example, he trains border policemen, trying to ramp up aggressive enforcement of anti-smuggling laws. His department also tries to reduce illegal ivory sales online by monitoring China’s auction sites like Ebay and TabBao, where ivory is sold under euphemisms, misspellings, and other code keywords for ivory.

Filed in: Advocacy TrainingAllCelebritiesCurriculumIssue EducationIvory Trade

About the Author ()

Cedar Attanasio is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco. When he’s not writing about elephants, he reports on Latin America, immigration, and the environment. You can connect with him on twitter @cedarattanasio

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