A letter from Nicky Campbell

Hi All,

This week, rather than words from me, I thought it vitally important to reprint a letter from my good friend, journalist and wildlife champion Nicky Campbell to Deyu Miao, from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, London.

It is a powerful and heartfelt appeal to China to take a bold, principled and compassionate leadership approach to the bloody ivory trade that is steadily wiping elephants from the face of the earth. As a journalist, Nicky asks some searching questions. I hope he gets the answers.

Best and blogging off


From Nicky Campbell:

Your Excellency,

I read your letter to the Guardian (Friday 6th March) about the ivory trade with huge interest. As a journalist, if I were ever to have the privilege of interviewing you, these are some of the questions I would ask.

Do you agree that as long as China insists on permitting such a high value and valuable ‘legal’ trade, there will always be a flourishing illegal trade? To what extent does this lucrative illegal trade contribute to the rapid decline of elephants in the wild? Is limiting and regulating any highly sought after product sustainable in an ever-expanding 10 trillion pound consumer economy? Do you acknowledge that the majority of Africa’s illegal ivory ends up in China?

You say the whole process scale is subject to the toughest regulatory and monitoring measures. If that is the case then why are new carving factories opening all the time?

Do you agree that elephants are self–aware, highly complex social beings with an extraordinarily wide range of emotions? If so, you are in line with every scientist and researcher working in this field. Have you ever seen an elephant mourn its dead?

You talk of China’s ‘intangible cultural heritage’ of ivory carving. With all we now know about elephants, is this cultural heritage morally justified? How can it be justified, given that whatever its scale, it entails the slaughter of sentient and now endangered animals? Why should it not, like so many other ‘intangible cultural heritages’ the world over, become a relic of history?

If a far away country, had a cultural heritage involved panda skin accessories, would you be happy if that country were to argue for a ‘limited’ legal trade (with the inevitable parallel illegal trade) or would you be prevailing upon them to put an end to the practice? If the Chinese government were to impose a complete ban on ivory, how do you think the world would react?

Lastly Sir, to what I really do feel is the most important question of all. If you answer none of the others please do address this one. Which to your mind is more beautiful – a family of elephants by a watering hole at sunset, safe from the Kalashnikov and chainsaw, or an ivory ornament?

Nicky Campbell

Read about Born Free’s work to fight the Ivory Trade

Find out more about the illegal ivory trade supply chain

9 Responses to “A letter from Nicky Campbell”

  1. Sherry Bagby Says:

    I love this letter! If those wonderful questions were answered honestly and thoughtfully by China, they would have to stop all trading in ivory. Wouldn’t it be amazing if China could then become a leader in animal conservation and welfare worldwide? What an example that would be for the rest of the world!

  2. Joy Doogan Says:

    brilliant Questions Nicky wonder what the answers would be?

  3. Nancy Lockhart Says:

    Love the letter to china Nicky Campbell . it is so Important for every person to get involved in all wildlife at this time in our world when seems some people do not care about the universe we all live in , it has become monetary Gain and just down right killing for ivory , it makes me sad that people do not have the respect for animals of the wild to leave them alone in their own habitats to live and reproduce in their own habitats to walk along with the families as we walk with our families . to be Happy and live out there lives in the great Africa where wild animals and the people of Africa live hand in hand and not to be killed till there is no more to see , to me Ivory belong on the animal who carries it from birth . I know panda’s are a sacred Animal in your lands but what if their was a black market on them and people started poaching them for their skins and soon they were going to be all gone , never to be seen again would you stop the poaching ? yes you would and you would need help of the rest of the world to stop this massacre of your panda’s . Now we come to you with heavy hearts and ask you for your help to stop buying Ivory from Africa so that those Elephants can live and reproduce like the majestic and wonderful Elephants the biggest mammal on this earth.. to be saved by all peoples of this world to come together in peace and start thinking of the animals that are born free and ask to stay the way they are born free , ALL WILD ANIMALS ARE BORN FREE AND NEED TO LIVE AS THEY ARE BORN ..FREE !!!!!

  4. Liz Graham Says:

    Dear Nicky,

    What a wonderful, passionate letter asking all the questions decent animal loving human beings want answers to. The last question was put in a way that brought tears to my eyes.
    It is difficult to believe that this and all the other atrocities to wildlife and any animal life is happening today.
    How ironic that most things we pick up in a shop today in UK is made in China. We import plastic, cheap, tawdry goods from them and they take away the life of beautiful elephants for their carved goods. So sad, it’s tragic.
    We need our members of parliament and everyone in the world to speak to China to let them know this has to stop.
    Thank you Nicky, Campbell.

    Liz Graham

  5. Lesley Says:

    No one should have a right to take animals let them run free as there are men’t to be doing,I’ve lost sleep over this as I can’t beer the thought of how they are being treating,it’s made me realise that china are wicked to let this sort of cruelty be happing in there country,it’s evil wicked this has to be stopped now,what’s wrong with country.

  6. Melissa Sterry Says:

    Well said Mr. Campbell. Well said.

  7. Dr Cheryl Mvula Says:

    These are the questions we should all be asking of the Chinese government…and the Chinese public at large. Criminalising the purchase of ivory in China has to be the way forward to getting this world back on a path of ‘light’, as opposed to the dark world that envelops the ivory trade.

  8. Gill Gilbey Says:

    Well Done Nicky Campbell,we need more of this.I haven’t read the letter but its good to see a journalist holding China to account,if only it happened more often!
    But if it seems that China is not for budging how long will we wait?
    My fear is that the world will do too little too late.

  9. Nina Cole Says:

    Wonderful letter from Nicky Campbell and would love to hear the reply!

    I do feel that the U.K could do more with regards to the trade on Ivory, since you still see this being sold on antique programmes, with the excuse that it is Ivory from a certain era & therefore can be legally sold!

    Elephants still died in whatever ever century they were killed & therefore it is nothing short of blood money!