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Oakland Zoo asks people to drop off ivory, other items made from illegal animal trade

on September 13, 2021

When Ting Ting the sun bear arrived at the Oakland Zoo in 2006, she had a spacious field to explore. But Ting Ting confined herself to a raised wooden plank.

Ting Ting, rescued from the illegal wildlife trade where she was sold as a pet, was previously kept in a small cage where she could walk only a few steps back and forth. In her first months at the Oakland Zoo, she maintained the same pacing pattern.

The Oakland Zoo is working to end the illegal wildlife trade that ensnared Ting Ting and thousands of other endangered animals by holding its first “End the Trade Day” on Saturday. The zoo invites people to bring trinkets, heirlooms and other pieces made from animals that were poached. It will use the event to educate people about illegal wildlife trafficking and its harmful effects on animals and their environments.

What: End the Trade Day
When: Saturday, Sept. 18
Where: Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road 

“We have to create awareness, support organizations that help animals that are in the trade.”

Amy Gotliffe

Ting Ting is one of the few to be rescued from the trade, which according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, is the world’s fourth largest illicit market, worth from $7 billion to $23 billion annually. It involves the trading and harvesting of live animals and plants, and the sale of parts or products created from them. Many endangered animals are trafficked for meat, medicine, clothing, jewelry, exploitation and ownership. Along with sun bears, targeted animals include tigers, elephants, geckos and macaws.

Zoos have an obligation to help put a stop to the trade, said Amy Gotliffe, Oakland Zoo’s vice president of conservation.

“This is our job, all of us have to do something,” Gotliffe said. “We have to create awareness, support organizations that help animals that are in the trade.”

The zoo is setting up an anonymous drive-up dropoff from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Snow Building. No admission fee is required. Zoo employees also will be accepting items from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Exhibit in the zoo.

No reward will be given to those who relinquish items, so as not to increase interest in the contraband.

“We really hesitate on giving you a reward for doing that because then we are in the trade,” Gotliffe said.

The zoo is partnering with California’s  Department of Fish and Wildlife for the event, and all wildlife items received will go to the department’s forensics team. Gotliffe said that team is hoping to trace items to particular groups or places and use them to identify trade hotspots.

More information about the event is on the zoo’s website.


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