Working with China on Wildlife Issues

Humane Society International

  • Joyce Poole speaks for the elephants. HSI

  • David Brady of Houston Zoo. HSI

by Dr. Peter Li

Last month, HSI staff traveled to China with the mission of improving animal welfare in zoos and protection in the wild.

Reaching zoo directors

HSI invited world-renowned elephant researcher Dr. Joyce Poole and Vice Director of Houston Zoo David Brady to speak to 48 Chinese zoo directors, who also heard from three experts sent by Animals Asia.

HSI discussed the case of a young elephant who died last year not long after arriving in China from Africa, warning that the decision to import of animals for zoos must take their needs and behavior fully into consideration.

Dr. Poole, co-founder of Elephant Voices, shared her experiences from three decades in Kenya studying the behavior and communication of elephants. She presented captivating photos of the animals roaming freely and did an amazing imitation of elephant sounds. She stated that importing elephants is a bad idea because no captive setting can replicate the natural and social settings that they require.

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Finally, David Brady spoke on marketing strategies for zoos, emphasizing the importance of diversified but sensitive and humane approaches to attracting visitors. Indirectly, he rejected practices such as animal performances and photo-ops with drugged or chained animals as tactics to be avoided.

Reaching young conservationists

Meanwhile, HSI President & CEO Dr. Andrew Rowan visited Northeast China University of Forestry to lecture 60 graduate and undergraduate students on wildlife protection.

He discussed the causes of global wildlife loss—from habitat destruction to illegal wildlife trade—and the integral role that China has to play in addressing them. He suggested that public education and suspension of wildlife import were important steps for China to take. The students responded well with intelligent, enthusiastic questions.

In both cases, it was satisfying to know that sharing expertise with a receptive audience made up of people working at the forefront of wildlife issues in China could help to effect positive changes for the country’s animals.

Learn more and help

Learn more about HSI’s initiatives for wildlife protection, including stopping illegal wildlife trade and other wildlife crime, supporting rehabilitation of seized animals, stopping rhino poaching and promoting immunocontraception as a humane means of elephant population control.

Check out our interactive wildlife trade infographic; then sign our Don’t Buy Wild pledge and donate to support our work. 

Dr. Peter Li is HSI’s China Specialist.