2017 was truly an epic year for WildAid.
Most significant was the historic closure of China’s ivory market. It is now illegal to buy or sell products made from elephant tusks anywhere in mainland China. WildAid Ambassador Yao Ming, who fought diligently for the ivory ban, is now helping us educate the public about it. With many other locations moving toward their own domestic ivory bans, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and more, we have reached a critical tipping point. The end of the global ivory trade is now in sight for the first time in history.
Another highlight of 2017 was reuniting with our very first ambassador, world famous martial arts action hero Jackie Chan. In his most recent WildAid campaign, Jackie lends his star power to the plight of the little-known pangolin. Despite international protections, the pangolin remains the most trafficked wild mammal in the illegal wildlife trade. With Jackie’s help, we are working to change that. Governments are responding, and seizures of pangolin products are becoming a regular occurrence.
In the Galapagos, our technical support enabled authorities to make a significant seizure of over 6,000 frozen sharks being transported illegally, resulting in criminal convictions and prison sentences for the captain and crew, plus a $6 million fine. Additionally, we continued our implementation of a sustainable enforcement system throughout Ecuador’s coastal protected areas. Patrol hours have increased by 84% since 2016 in waters that are rich with critical species, such as migratory and endangered sharks, sea turtles, humpback whales, manta rays and dolphins.
In Africa, we expanded our Poaching Steals From Us All campaign into Uganda, in addition to maintaining our efforts across Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Our list of ambassadors is growing rapidly, and I continue to be impressed with the passion each of them has for building pride in Africa’s wildlife.
Sadly, rhino conservation hit a setback during 2017 when South Africa legalized domestic rhino horn trade. With the looming risk that these horns could be laundered into the illegal international trade, our demand reduction campaigns are as important as ever. In China, we are being aided by influential antiques expert Ma Weidu, and in Vietnam, a new penal code has increased penalties for wildlife crimes.
Alarmingly, 2017 was one of the hottest ever recorded, and the species we are working to protect are coming under increasing threat as the planet warms. Our Shu Shi and GOblue climate campaigns are gaining traction in China. Our messages urging climate-friendly food choices and transport options are reaching millions of Chinese consumers thanks to our high-profile ambassadors and partners.
In the U.S., at our largest and most successful annual gala, we honored Josh Duhamel with the 2017 Wildlife Champion Award. Josh stars in a far-reaching campaign to educate American travelers about the dangers of buying wildlife souvenirs on trips abroad. His billboards, posters and public service announcements can be seen in airports, at tourist destinations, and on television channels throughout the country.
Finally, I am proud that we have sustained our perfect four-star rating by Charity Navigator, as well as our rare 100 out of 100 score for transparency and efficiency. Every day, we are humbled by the trust we receive from our partners and supporters; it fuels our determination to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. On behalf of the WildAid team, I extend our deepest gratitude for your support and encouragement.
CEO & CO-FOUNDER