Saving Elephants One School at a Time

By Celia Ho

Hi! I am Celia Ho, a 14-year-old girl from Hong Kong. I have been working on an ivory ban campaign to help save elephants from the inhumane ivory market.

Elephants have always been a symbol of happiness for me since I watched a scene of elephants playing light-heartedly in a documentary when I was very small, and I love every part of them, their intelligent eyes, lovely noses… They have emotion, feelings and close relationship with one another just like humans! But I have never thought of the exacerbating difficulties they have been encountering in recent decades until an inspirational article by Mr. Bryan Christy.

Celia Ho. Photo courtesy of Celia Ho.
Celia Ho. Photo courtesy of Celia Ho.

An Inspiration, “Ivory Worship,” by Bryan Christy

Mr. Christy’s “Ivory Worship” from the October edition of National Geographic was the inspiration of my campaign. When I opened the plastic bag and got the magazine out, excitedly as usual, the bloody cover picture of a ranger hacking off a dead elephant’s tusk immediately caught my eyes and drove me to find out what was happening. Then, the detailed facts and data showed me everything. Some people buy ivory for religious purposes, some for status recognition. The hunger of the inhumane trade is unlimited, and myriads of elephants are slaughtered every year.

I would like to show my thankfulness to Bryan, who has kindled the fire inside me to speak out loud for elephants. Being a student, I actually did not know what I could do except write a letter to the newspaper, which was South China Morning Post, and that was the turning point of my life.

My Partner, Mr. Christian Pilard

My letter about the ivory ban was noticed by Mr. Christian Pilard, the founder of Eco-Sys Action. A few days later, he replied to my letter with supportive and encouraging words. So we were in contact and started our partnership in this campaign. Christian, who has given me a lot of useful advice and freedom  to make decisions on my own, is always a perfect partner to work with.

Another Inspiration, Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall, who has always been my idol, had a trip to Hong Kong last year! She is my role model because of her devotion to save chimpanzees throughout her whole life. In her talk, she talked about her story from scratch, the moments she spent with chimpanzees, the importance of a coexistence of humans, wildlife, and the environment. Everything she mentioned and experienced encouraged me to take a deep breath, take out my ivory ban poster, and ask for her support. I will never forget the moment when she smiled at me, autographed my poster, and asked for my email address, giving me a new nickname, The Elephant Girl. Thank you Jane for being the first supporter of my campaign!

My Ivory Ban Campaign

My campaign has gained support from 60 organizations and 26 schools so far. They are a huge encouragement for me to keep on fighting for elephants because so many of us are always on the elephants’ side.

Not surprisingly, only a few of those supporters are from Asia/China—conservation ideas or organizations in Asia are not as ubiquitous as in other continents. Let me quote an example from a survey in China by the International Fund for Animal Welfare: “Seventy percent thought tusks can fall out and be collected by traders and grow back, that getting ivory did not mean the elephant is killed, and more than 80 percent would reject ivory products and not buy any more if they knew elephants were being killed, so it’s ignorance.”

Celia holds an educational poster illustrating the issues facing elephants. The poster can be downloaded from her website. Photo courtesy of Christian Pilard, Eco-Sys Action.
Celia holds an educational poster illustrating the issues facing elephants. The poster can be downloaded from her website. Photo courtesy of Christian Pilard, Eco-Sys Action.

Thus, educating people, especially young ones in Asia and spreading the ivory ban idea are very crucial to the ivory ban’s success. To make these goals a reality, I have been, and will be, taking part in some conservation events in Hong Kong, which is one of the main transit places. Some of the events are:

  • The Eighth Annual ESF Environmental Conference. Thank you Ms. Jenny Quinton from Ark Eden for giving me a chance to join the Eighth Annual ESF Environmental Conference, which aimed at encouraging students to start conservation campaigns and develop a sense of caring about the environment and wildlife. It was my honor to share my team’s ivory ban campaign with other students and introduce to them the aggravating circumstances and the imminent extinction elephants are facing. We also won the “Most International Award.”
  • Sending a letter to the General Secretary of CITES, John Scanlon, on behalf of children supporting the ivory ban.
  • Walking the Green Tiger at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  • On April 22, there will be a conservation film show about stopping a huge dam project on the Yangtze River at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Thank you, Mr. George C.K. Jor from CUHK, for letting me display my campaign and information about the ivory ban at that event, which many students and people in the conservation field will attend.

Attracting international attention

Yao Ming has been very active and is always a keen supporter of the elephants. I think getting him involved would send a message to (young) people in China that they can help by, for example, being united against ivory and telling their parents and friends not to buy ivory. If there is far less demand, then there will be far fewer less elephants killed. I believe that his support can gain more awareness worldwide about the rampant ivory trade because he is a celebrity who strongly supports the ivory ban. He is one of my idols too!

We need your help!

My main targets are schools in China.  The slogan of my campaign is, “School United for Elephants,” because this is the place where awareness can be raised and where a chain reaction can happen. For example, if one school in Hong Kong can liaise with one school in China, and that school in China can liaise with another one, etc., then it becomes very powerful.

If you are enthusiastic about the ivory ban, you have the power to save elephants:

  • Tell people around you not to buy ivory. You may find helpful the pdf file, the ivory ban poster, and other educational materials on the Resources part of my website:’s-corner/resources.html Please spread the idea as much as you can, like writing a letter to a newspaper, talking about it on Facebook, filming a video.
  • Download the poster from my website and take a photo with you holding it. Please send the photo to me afterwards.
  • Introduce the ivory ban issue and my campaign to Chinese or Asian schools near you so I can contact them and spread the ivory ban idea. Educating the younger generation is very important as they will determine the future and the fate of the Earth.

 No poaching! No ivory trade!

“If we are the most intellectual creature that has ever walked on the planet, how come we are destroying that planet?” says Dr. Jane Goodall.

Every tusk costs a life at least! Is it worthwhile?  Ivory is not a necessity for people, but elephants are very crucial animals to the whole world, especially the ecosystem. No poaching! No ivory trade!

My website:’s-corner/

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Meet the Author
Laurel Neme is the author of ANIMAL INVESTIGATORS: How the World’s First Wildlife Forensics Lab is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species, a narrative non-fiction “CSI for wildlife” with a foreword by Richard Leakey and endorsed by Jane Goodall that's been featured on ABC News Nightline and NPR’s Science Friday. She is also the author of the children's book, ORANGUTAN HOUDINI, based on a true story of an ape who outwits his zookeeper. She has hosted The WildLife radio show and addressed a range of groups on wildlife forensics and trafficking, and animal intelligence, including INTERPOL’s Wildlife Crime Working Group, the St. Louis Zoo, American Museum of Natural History, universities, school groups and libraries. Previously, she worked on natural resource and wildlife management as both a government officer and international consultant in dozens of countries around the world, helping her understand the real-life tradeoffs between wildlife protection and human economic needs. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan and PhD from Princeton University. See Laurel Neme's website for more.