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Anti-Ivory campaign gathers pace with celebrity endorsement

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Lupita Nyong'o


Kenyan-born Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong'o is the latest celebrity to join a world campaign against the trade in ivory.

"I ask the world to end the current elephant poaching crisis by being ivory free," the Oscar-winning star of 12 Years A Slave said at a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday.

Nyong'o is among a raft of celebrities operating under the auspices of WildAid, an international wildlife organisation working to stem poaching by curbing consumer demand for illegal wildlife products.

While a ban on the international trade of ivory has been in place since 1989, poaching continues to wipe out 33,000 elephants across Africa each year. Poaching has halved elephant populations in Mozambique and Tanzania since 2009, according to aerial surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Most of the illegal ivory is smuggled into markets in Asia and the Unites States, and some countries still allow domestic trade of ivory stockpiles predating the 1989 ban.

In June, the US Fish and Wildlife Service crushed one ton of ivory in Times Square to draw attention to the illegal trade, and China pledged to end its domestic ivory trade.

In her speech on Tuesday, Nyong'o called for consumers in the United States and Asia to stop buying ivory, and called on Kenyans to help end poaching by reporting the crime.

Since embarking on an ivory campaign in China in 2013, WildAid reports that there has been a 50 per cent increase in awareness of elephant poaching and a 95 per cent support for an ivory ban among Chinese nationals. The organisation hopes that educating Kenyans will help garner the same kind of support to end poaching there.