Polly McGovern talks with the WildAid wildlife campaigner.
I have been in Hong Kong for 20 years. I started off in commercial photography and then moved into editorial photography but with more of an environmental focus. That developed into conservation and photojournalism.
WildAid is an NGO that is focused on reducing the demand for endangered species in Hong Kong. The shark fin and ivory trades are immoral, cruel and unsustainable. Hong Kong is a great place and I don’t like to see its reputation tarnished internationally. Both of these trades are a stain on the nation.
I use the power of images to leverage sympathy and outrage with the general public to get people to stop serving shark fin and to stop buying shark fin. The sharks will become extinct if we don’t stop.
About 50% of the global shark fin trade passes through Hong Kong which is a trading hub. It then goes to the mainland.
With the ivory trade there are a lot of regulatory loopholes that allow for the laundering of freshly poached ivory taken from illegally killed African elephants. The market is flooded in Hong Kong and the government seems to have fallen asleep at the wheel.
My work has taken me all over the world. I have been to every corner of Asia and visited Africa many times. They say a picture tells a thousand words and that’s why pictures are so important. You can launch a report and no one will read it but one image can go around the world and that can have a huge impact.
In early 2014, we found a rooftop in Kennedy Town that was absolutely covered in shark fin. We couldn’t even count them there were so many, we estimated about 18,000. Those pictures went viral.
We are lobbying the government to set up an active wildlife crime unit in Hong Kong. We also want to get a critical mass of logistics and freight companies to stop shipping shark fin. We have already stopped UPS, and DHL have just announced they won’t ship it so now we are targeting their competitor FEDEX.
Children are the future so working with them is really important and I talk regularly at schools. Children have a powerful voice and speak with a purity that adults don’t have. I am organizing an ‘Elephant Protection Youth Summit’ in June 2016, where student representatives from schools in Hong Kong can come together for the first time. Together we can save the species.
For more information about WildAid’s work visit www.wildaid.org.