Campaign in Chinese Airports Seeks to Reduce Illegal Wildlife Trade

Mountains in southwest China.

Mountains in southwest China. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

When I first learnt about the issue of wildlife trafficking several months ago, I did not think it was closely linked to my life, or to the lives of most people in China. But I’ve come to realize that wildlife trade is intricately intertwined with the people of China and our evolving consumption habits.

Certain wildlife uses in China dates back thousands of years, and are very much a part of our culture and tradition. For example, traditional Chinese medicine — which often uses wildlife products like seahorse, bear bile and orchids —remains a primary source of health care for people in China and all over the world.

However, much of today’s illegal wildlife trade in China is a relatively recent phenomenon that is linked to new trends and wealth. In recent decades, China has experienced rapid economic development. As a resident in Beijing, I’ve personally witnessed how fast the city has developed and how consumption levels have been rising. As a result, more people are now able to afford wildlife products. Wild animals like snakes, lizards and monkeys are sought as exotic pets, and wildlife derivatives such as shark fin and ivory are used as food, decoration and clothing.

The high profits that result from these consumption patterns have spurred the growth of an illegal industry in wildlife trafficking valued at over US$ 20 billion annually. Illegal wildlife poachers and smugglers are concerned with maximizing their profits, and often capture animals at a rate that does not allow repopulation. As a result, many wild animals are now on the verge of extinction.

Jia stands beside one of the lightbox posters that have been installed in Nanning Wuwei International Airport, China.

Jia (right) stands beside one of the lightbox posters that have been installed in Nanning Wuwei International Airport, China. (photo courtesy of Jia Qi)

With the support of USAID, CI-China is cooperating with the Freeland Foundation on the ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) program from 2012 to 2014, providing a regional effort to suppress wildlife trafficking by reducing consumer demand.

Under this objective, we’ve started a public awareness campaign in southern China, starting in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, a province bordering Vietnam. Guangxi’s location — in a mountainous terrain in the far south of China — has placed it on the frontier of Chinese civilization throughout much of China’s history and made it a key region for cross-border trade and wildlife trafficking.

Several months ago, the campaign was launched in Nanning Wuwei International Airport. Though not a large airport, it is Guangxi’s busiest; as a regional hub with direct flights to Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Burma, Laos and Thailand, it received more than 6 million passengers in 2011.

We created poster lightboxes with the slogan “Together We Can Save the World’s Wildlife” in five languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Lao and English) and placed them at the entrance of the customs area where passengers normally queue. Lightboxes have also been permanently placed in the customs area of the airports in the famous tourist city of Guilin, and at the customs checking areas of three port cities in Guangxi.

In a related effort, we also produced more than 30,000 brochures promoting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and wildlife consumption reduction to be distributed to the immigration officers.

Our key message with this campaign was to emphasize the illegality of wildlife trafficking. All of these communications materials contain a warning: “To mail, carry or deliver wild animals or plants or their derivative products will be severely punished by law.”

Recognising that government support and enforcement plays a significant role in wildlife trafficking, all campaign products, lightboxes, posters and brochures, include the names of relevant government sectors besides Freeland Foundation, USAID and CI. By the end of 2014, the ARREST program’s public awareness campaign will expand to other provinces of southern China, including Guangdong and Yunnan, both of which consume wildlife heavily for geographical and cultural reasons.

As part of this program, we also recently conducted a wildlife consumption survey in China which yielded some really interesting results — stay tuned on our blog to hear more soon!

Saving the world’s wildlife requires a committed effort from every single person. Through the ARREST program, we from CI-China will work to spread the message and call for as many people as possible to share this responsibility.

Jia Qi is the communications manager of CI-China and works directly to support program and communications efforts under the ARREST program.


  1. Marilyn Coussoule says

    This is very good news to read, for it is next to impossible for non-Asians to be allowed to communicate freely behind the Chinese Wall. We need more people with the courage of this woman. The rest of us are exhausted fighting for intervention on behalf of the elephant and the rhino and other wildlife, exhausted from the lack of political will within our own countries all over the world that seem unable or unwilling to rise to defend this wildlife. It has been made painfully apparent to us that this holocaust against the wildlife will only be won by addressing the demand placed upon it by Asian cultures. Thank you very much, Jia!

    1. Pam Pearson says

      I googled you to find a way to get in touch with you after reading your comment on the March 27 Nat Geo article. I feel exactly as you do and am having a very hard time with this. I am trying to take action but am so wary of reading about the next slaughter.
      I would love to hear from you.
      Pam Pearson

  2. F. Hinds says

    Thank you so much for this very effective campaign, you are doing what I wish I could do, keep up the good work, with love from South Africa 🙂

  3. Mark says

    We need a specific focus on Rhino Poaching right now because over 500 Rhino have been killed in South Africa this year –which is threatening extinction of this species.
    Please try and educate the Asians who think Rhino Horn is good for potency that this is an absolute myth and a lie —all it shows is that the humans who believe this are very stupid and brainwashed by people who are trying to make money from such stupidity.

  4. Fred Fickling says

    By the end of 2014, at the current rate of murder there may be no more rhino left in Africa. This article is not only meaningless, but misleading and frankly typical of the obfuscation that you in Asia demonstrate to “show” you are doing something to combat the slaughter of endangered species in Africa for primitive and unscientific medical and other use in your continent. Rhino horn does not make you more sexually capable. Imbeciles!

  5. LAX shuttle says

    Will help disseminate this information. I think that starting the campaign at the airports would be a big step since being able to stop them there would at least help impede the progress and continuance of these illegal efforts.

  6. George says

    I live in China and have noticed the blatant sale of seahorse and sea cucumber products. They are even shamelessly advertised on social media sites like WeChat.
    What do I do to help?

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