When The Buying Stops – The Killings Will Too

Photo courtesy of WildAid
Photo courtesy of WildAid

I was invited to Cecconi’s last week to meet the marketing genius, Peter Knights with WildAid. His mission in life is to educate the world about illegal poaching and save endangered sharks, elephants, rhinos and pangolins.

He enthusiastically shared with me that President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping just agreed to end commercial ivory sales in the U.S. and China. This is big news for the conservation of elephants in Africa. Some estimate that elephants were poached at the rate of 70,000 a year.

During our interview, I learned Knights works with government officials in China, Africa, and Hong Kong by leading a reduction program for shark fin, manta ray gill rakers, ivory from elephants, and rhino horns.

One way he is getting his message out is with sophisticated ad campaigns by celebrity ambassadors that include former basketball star Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Richard Branson, celebrity David Beckham and Prince William. “Our public service announcements and educational initiatives, reach one million people per week in China alone,” Knights told me. “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

Peter Knights and wife – Photo by Jill Weinlein

He started educating China in 2004 before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, by bringing awareness to the people of China about the horrors of poaching and consuming endangered species. “We are getting the Chinese to change their attitudes with the help of actors, athletes and celebrities,” Knights said. “Actor Jackie Chan was my first celebrity. Basketball great – Yao Ming speaks in front of the National Peoples Congress in China about the importance of banning ivory. It’s working,” WildAid partnered with Save the Elephants and African Wildlife Foundation to reduce the demand for elephant ivory with public service announcements. Since 2012, 52% of people in China believe elephant poaching is a problem.

Locally, Governor Jerry Brown passed ‪#‎AB96‬, calling all the states in the U.S. to join California, New York and New Jersey to close any loop holes and ban the destructive trade of ivory and rhino horns. Every year at least 30,000 elephants are killed for their ivory. “This sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that ivory and rhino horn have no value in California,” said Knights.

WildAid has been working with the Chinese to ban Shark Fin for soup too. “In Mandarin, shark fin soup is translated to fish wing soup. Many didn’t realize they were eating shark fin, they thought they were consuming fish soup,” said Knights. Every year, up to 73 million shark fins are used for soup. With Knight’s marketing campaign, nearly 85% of Chinese have stopped eating the soup in the last three years. WildAid has helped reduce the demand for fins by 50-70% and helped secure bans in a number of US states.

When Knights found out that over 1,000 Rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa, he partnered with African Wildlife Foundation in 2013 with public service announcements to be shown in China and Vietnam. The belief in Rhino horns for medicinal value has dropped by 24% in China.

Fewer than 3,200 Tigers remain in the wild today. A century ago there were 100,000. Knights is expanding a campaign in China, Vietnam and Thailand to increase awareness and reduce consumption of tiger parts and control illegal trade.

Cecconi's in West Hollywood
Cecconi’s in West Hollywood

At the end of the evening, I learned that WildAid’s 2015 gala at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills on November 7, 2015 is SOLD OUT. You can call and add your name to the gala wait list – (415) 834-3174.

The gala evening will celebrate WildAid’s work to fight the illegal wildlife trade in Africa, and to honor the recent work of our WildAid ambassadors that include special guests Kathryn Bigelow, Chevy & Jayni Chase, Michael Cudlitz, Bo Derek & John Corbett, Maggie Q & Dylan McDermott, Amy Tan and Yao Ming.

There is a cocktail hour from 6 to 7:30pm. Dinner will be served at 7:30pm and dancing begins at 10pm to Midnight.

To learn more about WildAid and how you can help spread the word to start saving endangered animals, go to http://www.wildaid.org

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