In February 2015, China announced a one-year ban on ivory imports. While many conservation groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency denounced Beijing’s policy as “ineffective,” the San Francisco-based group WildAid said is an important step in the right direction and part of a broader Chinese policy shift towards more progressive wildlife protection laws.
Peter Knights is the co-founder and Executive Director of WildAid and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why he is among the few conservation leaders who is actually optimistic about the Chinese ivory import ban as well as how he is a leading campaign to make animal conservation ‘aspirational value’ in China.
Peter Knights was formerly a program director working on illegal wildlife trade with Global Survival Network and a senior investigator for the Environmental Investigation Agency. He specialized in conducting global on-site investigations and campaigned against the trade in wild birds for pets and the consumption of endangered species in traditional Chinese medicine, such as bear gallbladder, rhino horn, and tiger bone. On birds, this work led to over 150 airlines stopping the carriage of wild birds and the Wild Bird Conservation Act, which cut imports of wild birds into the US from 800,000 to 40,000.
In 1996 while working across Asia, Peter created the first international program aimed at reducing demand for endangered species products. He received an Associate Laureate of the Rolex Award for Enterprise for this work. The program used sophisticated advertising techniques, donated airtime, and celebrity spokespeople with the message “When the buying stops, the killing can too” and has over 100 actors, athletes, and musicians appearing in its campaigns. In 2011 it raised $200 million in donated media in China alone. The campaign Peter started on shark fin is attributed with helping to reduce demand for fins by 50-70% in China in 2012 and helping to secure bans in a number of US states.
Peter has served as Executive Director of WildAid since its founding in 2000. He initiated the Marine Protection Program and currently leads the Demand Reduction Program for shark fin, manta ray gill rakers, ivory, and rhino horn. Peter holds a B. Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics.
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