In Hong Kong, Kids Take Action to Stop the Illegal Ivory Trade

Children and adults protest the illegal ivory trade at the International March for Elephants in Hong Kong on October 4, 2013. (Photograph by Alex Hofford)

Hong Kong schoolchildren are transforming attitudes about elephant ivory through small actions that are having a big impact.

Hong Kong is at the heart of the ivory black market. Its bustling ports are a major entry point for smuggled ivory shipped from Africa to Asia. In recent years officials have seized huge amounts of ivory: 3.4 tons in 2011, 5.6 tons in 2012, and about 7 tons in the first ten months of 2013.

Now, kids in Hong Kong are using school projects, letter-writing campaigns, petitions, and protests to educate their peers and parents about the true origins of decorative ivory. As a result, they’re helping change habits and policies.

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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.