China’s leading actress Li Bingbing is visiting Kenya to highlight the illegal ivory trade that is fueling a rise in the killing of elephants in East Africa and across the continent.
A Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in China, Li Bingbing is among the most recognized faces. In November 2009, Li won the Best Leading Actress Award at the Chinese equivalent to Oscar Academy Awards, 46th Golden Horse Film Awards, for her role in the espionage spy thriller “The Message.”
Li’s rise in popularity in Hollywood productions, including her role as Ada Wong in 2012’s “Resident Evil: Retribution,” shows her star power goes beyond her Chinese fans. With more than 20 million followers on the Chinese social media network Sina Weibo and 18,000 Facebook followers, Kenya-based NGO Save the Elephants and UNEP hope that Li’s official visit will highlight the cost and impact of the demand for ivory on elephants in Africa, and resonate with those in China and beyond.
Demand for illegal ivory remains highest in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, particularly China. Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009. In January 2013 Hong Kong authorities made their third big seizure of illegal ivory in three months, confiscating more than a tonne of elephant tusks worth $1.4 million.
The number of elephants illegally killed in Africa has doubled over the last decade, according to a recent UNEP study.