Elephant Poaching Exposé Goes Viral in China

The Southern Weekly, one of China's most influential newspapers, published a front-page story about the widespread massacre of elephants for ivory, and of ivory consumption in China as the primary driver of the crisis. The story has spread throughout the nation, potentially raising awareness of the issue on an unprecedented scale in that country. The executive director of the Asia program for the Wildlife Conservation Society stated in a press release that “‘in China, it’s not just what is said but who says it. To have the Southern Weekly give its front page to an article highlighting China’s role in the ivory trade is monumental.’”

The article by Yuan Duanduan, titled “The Blood Ivory: Behind the Largest Ivory Smuggling Cases in China,” appeared in the November 15, 2013, edition of the paper, which is distributed throughout the Chinese mainland with an estimated circulation of more than 1.6 million. The story reached millions more when it caught fire across Chinese websites and social media. It became the most discussed topic on the Southern Weekly website in the days following publication, and was reposted on five of China’s largest web portals. The non-profit WildAid also launched a major campaign in 2013 with Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, and others to urge Chinese consumers to avoid ivory.

In another first for the country, on January 6, 2014, Chinese authorities crushed over six metric tons of seized elephant ivory in Guangzhou. The action is mostly symbolic, as the amount destroyed represented only a fraction of China’s stockpile of smuggled ivory. In late January, Hong Kong announced its own plans to destroy at least 28 metric tons of seized ivory—nearly all of its stockpile.