Elephant Walk

Elephant Walk

12 October, 2015
March for Animals
Kids, nature lovers, celebrities and NGOs highlight endangered species with a public stunt
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If you thought you saw a giant pangolin walking the streets of TST yesterday, you weren't hallucinating.
The lovable mascot was part of a walk to raise awareness of and denounce the trading of ivory, shark fins, and pangolins, entitled Elephant Walk 2015 and organized by AquaMeridian Conservation & Education Foundation (AquaMeridian). The Elephant Walk is part of the Global March for Elephants & Rhinos, a worldwide movement with 150+ participating cities.
The colorful parade started with a press conference at Felix, top floor of the Peninsula Hong Kong. They then walked towards towards the Public Pier of Tsim Sha Tsui along the harbour, ending up at the iconic Clock Tower. The vent was attended by NGOs, local celebrities, nature lovers, and 'Elephant Angels' (AquaM-appointed child ambassadors).
AquaMeridian has long been urging the Hong Kong government to finally implement a full ban on the local ivory trade. And rightly so, as the rest of the world takes bold action to stop this senseless trade; just over a week ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with US President Barack Obama and agreed to work together to enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export. This includes significant and fast-acting restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, along with steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.
Sharon Kwok, Executive Director of AquaMeridian, has strong feelings on the matter: “Perhaps now Hong Kong will finally take the initiative to effectively protect and preserve elephants via a complete local trade ban. The trade is thriving due to loopholes as illegal ivory can easily claim to be legal ivory. We must act now to become responsible custodians of nature while there are still elephants, sharks, and enough pangolins to save.”
Scientists have estimated that, from 1980 to now, over 75,000 African elephants were killed each year, with illegal hunting accounting for over 80%.  Although the export and import of ivory has long been banned, illegal trading is largely known to continue.
Meanwhile, retail prices in Hong Kong stores have increased 50-fold in the last decade, up to US$ 30,000 (HK$ 231,000) for a kilogram of carved ivory. According to a recent survey, there are still over 30,000 ivory products found in 72 ivory retailers in the city.
During the press conference, a letter signed by AquaMeridian along with other NGOs, including World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, Conservation International, SPCA, and Sea Shepherd was presented to Under Secretary for the Environment Ms. Christine Loh to ask Hong Kong Government to enact a complete ban in ivory trade in Hong Kong.
The Elephant Angels were firm on their stance: “We are very concerned that as a result of the actions, or inaction, of your generation, species are being wiped out very quickly,” said one young Elephant Angel named Etta Wu. “It's time to let Hong Kong play a leading role in China's recent commitment save our elephants.” 
 “The trade is driven by the insatiable demand for ivory,” added Nellie Shute, another Elephant Angel. “When the demand stops so will the senseless killing of these beautiful creatures.”
Aquameridien's mascot 'Sharkaphant' represents the largest animal on land and the biggest fish in the sea, both of which are facing possible extinction due to poor cultural traditions. The NGO was founded in 2012 to promote marine conservation, but quickly turned to terrestrial creatures in need of help as well, such as fighting for elephants since 2013. In 2014 they successfully persuaded Hong Kong's four largest ivory retailers to stop selling elephant ivory and they were instrumental in helping California's ivory ban (AB96) become a reality this year.
This year, they are also spotlighting the pangolin, a timid little creature that is currently the most illegally-trafficked animal on earth.
Around 10,000 pangolins are seized each year by enforcement authorities worldwide and Annamiticus estimated that around 110,000 to 230,000 pangolins were trafficked to China and Vietnam from 2011 to 2012 alone. They are poached for scientifically unproven medical value of their body parts, especially their scales, and as a luxury food item. In just March 2015, over two tonnes of pangolin scales from Nigeria were seized in Hong Kong. In 2014, Hong Kong customs seized over 4 tonnes of pangolin scales smuggled from Sierra Leone, Kenya and Cameroon.

By: Ecozine Staff
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