Protesters lock horns with China over ivory as campaigners look into buyers


Gone are the days when a “Save the Rhino” advert was enough. Only about 25,000 rhinos are left in the wild, and thanks to poaching the species is critically endangered. Now, in an effort to drive down demand, conservationists are working on campaigns to understand what makes rhino horn consumers tick.

The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) behavioural-change campaigns are being developed as the world’s attention is fixed on combating global wildlife crime. Hundreds of people descended on the Chinese embassy in London yesterday to demand that China bans the trade in elephant ivory, destroys its stocks and closes ivory carving factories.

When the world’s leaders gather at the London conference in a few weeks’ time to find a solution to wildlife crime, cutting demand will be one of their top priorities. More than 100 African elephants are killed every day. According to a recent South African report, 2013 was the worst year on record for rhino poaching in the country, with 1,004 animals killed – a 50 per cent increase on the previous year.

Sabri Zain, director of Policy at Traffic, the WWF’s wildlife trade monitoring programme, said demand-reduction campaigns must focus on the people who are buying illegal wildlife products. “At times we have probably been talking to the wrong people and giving the wrong message,” he said. “People might think rhino horn consumers are fairly old traditionalists who believe in the magical power of the rhino horn to cure cancer, but in reality [those ones] are a minute number. The archetypal consumer is young to middle-aged, very well educated and a leader in the corporate world.”

Protesters gather outside the Chinese embassy in London Protesters gather outside the Chinese embassy in London

A recent survey by the WWF of more than 700 people in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, found that rhino horn consumers tend to be urban men, over the age of 40, from the upper echelons of society. And the most common reason for buying rhino horn was linked to prestige: it is thought to reaffirm one’s social status and is often bought as a gift for family members, colleagues, or those in positions of authority.

Mr Zain added that the typical messaging used by conservationists, depicting rhinos as “magnificent beasts”, can actually serve to encourage consumption.

WWF is working on a campaign to change corporate behaviour and attitudes in Vietnam, working with companies to encourage them to penalise staff who give rhino horns as gifts. It also hopes to reach the buyers’ children, who are thought to have an influence on their parents.

But it is not only about the rhinos. The appeal in The Independent on Sunday and its sister titles supports Space for Giants, a charity that works to defend Africa’s elephants. Its founder, Max Graham, said it costs about £120 a year for each elephant to protect north Kenya’s elephant population from armed poachers. He added that it would cost about £50m a year to extend this support to the whole of the continent.

“If demand for ivory were to disappear, then we could invest these resources into more important conservation measures over the long term, such as habitat protection. That is why demand reduction is so critical,” he said.

Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, who was at the protest yesterday, said China must exert its authority and ban the ivory trade. “The poaching of these elephants will impact local economies; not only because it will destroy their heritage but [because] it will endanger the tourist economy,” she said. “This is a global issue, not just Africa’s.”

Dominic Dyer, policy adviser for the charity Care for the Wild, said Britain needed to use its influence to protect the animals. “The UK government is in a unique position to promote education into the horrors and dangers of the trade,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own