Chinese consumers are driving elephant ivory sales globally. And each year, at least 20,000 African elephants are killed to meet black-market elephant ivory demand. Laudably, the Chinese government implemented a domestic ban on selling and purchasing elephant ivory at the end of 2017 to address its role in the elephant poaching crisis.
But research has found that regular outbound Chinese travelers have the highest interest in purchasing elephant ivory despite the ban, with 27% of those surveyed in 2019 still intending to buy elephant ivory. Their travel gives them access to ivory in some of the destinations most popular with Chinese travelers—including Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam—where elephant ivory is still on the shelves. Chinese outbound travel is also growing. To achieve the goal of the ban—saving Africa’s elephants—we must curb consumer purchase of elephant ivory outside China.
WWF is working to change the buying behavior of these tourists during the biggest travel periods of the year. We are hosting events that promote alternative, sustainable souvenirs in popular destinations and working to dissuade potential buyers via social media in real time as they travel around active elephant ivory markets in Thailand, Vietnam, and other parts of Southeast Asia. And we are basing our approach on extensive research into elephant ivory consumers’ motivations and behavior change insights to ensure success.
Amplifying our message through partnerships
We work with companies in the travel industry and the tech sector to spread awareness and create a more sustainable travel culture. Groups as diverse as the World Travel and Tourism Council, airlines, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand are asking visitors to travel elephant ivory free. Some of China’s most prominent social media companies, including Weibo and WeChat, are helping use the same tools commercial brands have perfected to influence customers, including precision marketing through their channels, to reach travelers at high-risk elephant ivory purchase points, like jewelry stalls and markets.
And we are recruiting influencers, from pop stars to travel experts, to help get out the message that elephant ivory is no longer socially acceptable.
To learn more about WWF’s work, please visit our page on stopping ivory demand.