'Ivory store' which caused outrage in Singapore is part of wildlife group's campaign to raise awareness

Jose Hong Straits Times 8 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE - A Singapore online store which claimed to sell "vintage" ivory has drawn outrage from hundreds online, but it has turned out to be part of a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore campaign to raise awareness on the ivory trade.

Ivory Lane Singapore, which launched on Facebook last Tuesday (July 31), supposedly sold accessories made from elephant ivory. It included professionally shot videos and photographs of models wearing the accessories, and prices ranged from $160 for a pair of earrings to $800 for a necklace.

The products were "inspired by the luxury of nature and heritage" according to the website, adding that "ivory is a secret desire for most girls".

The fictitious online shop, which The WWF on Tuesday (Aug 07) admitted is part of a campaign against the ivory trade, sparked uproar almost immediately after it went live, with netizens accusing it of supporting the slaughter of elephants.

In response to the criticism, Ivory Lane "posted" on Facebook on Monday (Aug 6) that "the ivory we use is completely legal in Singapore" because it is "vintage ivory, before 1990". Singapore has banned the commercial import and export of ivory since 1990, though the selling and buying of ivory in Singapore is still allowed.

But the outrage only intensified. Facebook user Joshua Kho posted: "A legal loophole does not make the ivory trade ethical."

Demand for ivory, especially in Asia, has led to the decline in elephant numbers around the world.

Within six days of launching, Ivory Lane's website and social media accounts reached 250,000 people and garnered 65,000 reactions.

The reaction to the site drew the attention of international media. News wire agency Agence France-Presse, in a report titled "Singapore uproar over store selling ivory jewellery", quoted Mr Jason Baker, a spokesman for campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as questioning who would want to collect "fragments of a tortured, dead elephant".

On Tuesday (Aug 7), just before midnight, WWF updated the Ivory Lane website to say it had been behind the shop. It told The Straits Times that as the sale of ivory is not completely illegal in Singapore, it set up Ivory Lane "to highlight this shortcoming in local wildlife laws".

WWF Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan added: "The overwhelming and strong response by people in Singapore towards Ivory Lane has made it very clear that people in Singapore have a zero tolerance toward illegal wildlife trade. We are due for clear and strong legislation to address ivory and illegal wildlife trade in Singapore."

It is not the first time that fake advertising campaigns raised eyebrows in Singapore.

Two years ago, hundreds of fans of actress Rebecca Lim and the media fell for an Instagram post that she had put up in which she implied that she was retiring from show business. When NTUC Income later admitted it was part of a campaign to remind young Singaporeans to plan financially for retirement, both Lim and the insurance company faced a backlash from the public.

In 2010, Singapore Post apologised for its publicity campaign that involved a masked man openly defacing six post boxes over the New Year weekend. The "vandalism spree" had sparked a furore among Singaporeans - initially surrounding the blatant vandalism and, after it was revealed to be a publicity stunt, the wrong message being sent. Police, who were called in to investigate, also said that this had "caused unnecessary public alarm and wasted valuable resources".

Public relations practitioner Luenne Choa said that WWF's shock campaign was a high-risk strategy. "In this instance it's good that they got all this attention, but they need to sustain the movement of their campaign and show that real change will occur."

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) founder Louis Ng said: " I share the public's and charity's concern about a complete ivory ban in Singapore."

Mr Ng, who is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said: "I've raised this issue in Parliament and I'm glad that we are committed to a domestic ban on the ivory trade and are working out the implementation details. I'm hopeful we will implement this ban soon and will continue to speak up about the issue of tackling wildlife crime."


Slammed 'ivory store' part of WWF campaign to raise awareness on Singapore wildlife laws
Today Online 8 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE: An online store slammed for "selling" accessories made of vintage ivory was in fact part of a campaign by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to raise awareness about the "shortcomings" of local wildlife laws, said WWF in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 7).

The store, which appeared to have been launched on Jul 31, claimed to sell "unique accessories ... crafted with one of the purest elements of nature, ivory".

Social media users left hundreds of comments on its Facebook and Instagram pages, describing the business as "despicable", "disgusting" and "tasteless".

On Monday morning, the store responded to the backlash, saying: "We understand the concerns and would like to assure that the ivory we use is completely legal in Singapore (as it was made with) vintage ivory, before 1990."

Many continued to rail at the business, with one user, Max Remark, saying: "Ivory is Ivory - and elephants have died for it. Selling ivory - even 'vintage' ivory - creates and keeps the market alive, and thus the trade and finally the killing."

It was not until early Wednesday morning that the WWF revealed it was behind the fake business.

"BRAND MAY BE FICTIONAL, BUT ISSUES ARE REAL"

Even then, the reactions were mixed.

Some called the campaign "disrespectful", "childish" and "in bad taste", while others applauded WWF's efforts, describing it as "well-played" and "brilliant marketing".

Responding to this, WWF told Channel NewsAsia: "The brand may be fictional, but the issues highlighted are real.

"Ivory traders are still operating in Singapore and catering to demand for ivory products. In the meantime, the global trade in elephant ivory claims one African elephant every 25 minutes.

"On issues concerning local laws on ivory and wildlife trade, the voices of people in Singapore speak louder than any organisation.

"Ivory Lane was the vehicle to bring out these opinions, as it highlighted the significant gap between what people in Singapore thought about ivory and what was actually happening."

WWF pointed out that ivory that entered the market before 1990 is permitted for sale in Singapore and this facilitates illicit ivory trade globally as recently poached ivory may be masqueraded as vintage.

However, survey results showed only 8 per cent of people in Singapore understood the current legislation, while 50 per cent thought that the trade of elephant ivory was already banned here, said WWF.

“It is not easy to understand wildlife laws and what is legal and not, a reality that is often misused by illegal traders. The general uncertainty leads to illicit wildlife trade hiding in plain sight. We set up the online shop, Ivory Lane, on the same legal premise that the real ivory traders use to operate in Singapore,” said WWF-Singapore's chief executive Elaine Tan.

WWF said its ivory shop campaign reached 250,000 people and garnered 65,000 reactions within six days, and "sparked off a heated public debate on wildlife trade, national legislation and enforcement in Singapore".

Ivory Lane is not the first publicity campaign to raise eyebrows in recent years. In 2010, SingPost apologised for a vandalism stunt meant to promote a post box art competition.

Source: CNA/hs(rw)


Brilliant campaign or 'fake news'? Spoof ivory store launch draws mixed reaction
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Singapore on Tuesday unveiled that it was behind the launch of Ivory Lane, a fictitious outfit which purportedly sold vintage ivory jewellery items through an online store and social media accounts.
Today Online 8 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE — A wildlife charity's attempt to use a fake online ivory shop here to raise awareness about the illicit global trade has stirred controversy, drawing both praise and condemnation from netizens.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Singapore (WWF) on Tuesday (Aug 7) unveiled that it was behind the launch of Ivory Lane, a fictitious outfit which purportedly sold vintage ivory jewellery items through an online store and social media accounts.

The stunt, WWF-Singapore said, was aimed at at highlighting local laws which continue to facilitate the illicit global trade for ivory.

The charity added that the campaign "sparked a heated debate on wildlife trade, national legislation and enforcement in Singapore", garnering 65,000 reactions on social media.

Some netizens applauded WWF-Singapore for a campaign that successfully went viral on social media platforms like Facebook, and drew attention to the issue.

"The campaign succeeded - it drew attention to the loophole. Now that attention’s there, there’s public support for the loophole to be closed," Ms Nicolette Dode Tan wrote on the Facebook page of the fictitious Ivory Lane shop.

Others were less impressed, and criticised WWF-Singapore for deliberately spreading misinformation.

Mr Joshua Kho wrote in a comment on Ivory Lane's Facebook page: "Regardless of intention, using deliberate misinformation is disrespectful and childish. You’ve lost my trust, WWF and WWF-Singapore. WWF is the same as 'fake news' for me now."

Added Ms Tracey Jennings: "You don’t need tricks to galvanise support, just facts.... I’m an engineer, if I had used false data in my work to prove a fact... I’d be sacked."

Singapore banned the commercial import and export of ivory in 1990, although ivory that entered the market before 1990 is still permitted for sale in the Republic.

WWF says this continues to facilitate illicit ivory trade globally as recently poached ivory could masquerade as vintage ivory.

The Singapore government is looking into implementing a domestic ban on the sale of ivory, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore said in an emailed statement, adding that the implementation details are currently being worked out.

WWF's investigations found more than 40 shops in Singapore selling ivory products and numerous online listings on popular e-commerce and classified platforms. In physical shops, WWF investigators said traders explained how to smuggle ivory across borders undetected which they said showed how easily the loopholes in the law can be misused.

Singapore has made large scale-seizures of ivory in recent years and conservation groups say it acts as a transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade. REUTERS


A charity made up an 'ivory brand', and not everyone is happy
Heather Chen BBC 8 Aug 18;

It was a luxury brand that sounded too controversial to be true - and it was.

"Vintage" retailer Ivory Lane attracted public ire when it went online in Singapore this week, touting modern designer jewellery and accessories made from ivory.

"Ivory is a secret desire for most girls," said its ad campaign.

But the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has now revealed it was all a publicity campaign to promote awareness of the global trade in elephant ivory.

"The brand may be fictional but the issues highlighted are real. This was just the start," WWF-Singapore CEO Elaine Tan told the BBC.

"We are calling for clear and robust laws that will not allow the trade of ivory or any illegal wildlife products in Singapore."

Following the big reveal, many applauded the WWF's novel approach in tackling the issue of elephant ivory. But did the conservation body go too far in selling its cause?

'Vintage jewellery and accessories', made from elephants. Would you buy?
Ivory, mainly from elephant tusks, has been traded for hundreds of years. But a growing outcry against the trade kicked off bans in Asia, its biggest market.

So it was no surprise that the launch of Ivory Lane sparked an immediate uproar in Singapore, where ivory from elephants killed before 1990 can legally be sold.

Highly-polished marketing videos, professionally-worded ads combined with expensive statement pieces (inspired by the "luxury of nature and heritage") built a thoroughly believable brand narrative and drew the fury of animal lovers and netizens alike on Facebook.

Many Singaporeans - and media outlets - were fooled, buying into the outrage and taking to Facebook to express their anger at the brand and its mistreatment of elephants.

"Ivory is a secret desire for most girls - said no one with a heart ever," wrote Christine Neo in response to "founder" Ivy Chung's words.

"Why would you even assume ivory is something many Singaporeans would want to buy?"

Hundreds of strongly-worded Facebook reviews also followed swiftly. But the fictional Ms Chung had her defence ready: "We understand the concerns and would like to assure that the ivory we use is completely legal in Singapore."

Highlighting a very telling loophole, she continued: "The import and export of elephant ivory has been banned internationally since 1990. Ivory Lane does not import any new ivory into Singapore and all our ivory products are made of vintage ivory, before 1990."

The outcry only intensified and rattled on for days, as more and more ads emerged.

On Tuesday, the WWF revealed it was "a fictitious brand that was created by WWF-Singapore to highlight the shortcomings of wildlife laws in Singapore".

It cited a recent investigation which found more than 40 shops in Singapore selling ivory products.

One Facebook user, Nicolette Dode Tan, applauded the approach. "It was a great marketing campaign and wouldn't have worked this well if it didn't tap into the reality of living in Singapore.

"The materialism, the lack of transparency in our supply chains, technical legalities as well as abhorrent practices like consuming sharks fin just because it's a traditional thing," she said.

"Riling people up by creating a fake brand and drawing attention? That worked wonderfully," added Facebook user Kyaw Tay Zar. "The usual media campaigns don't bring much deserved attention as it should. People usually glaze over such issues."

But to Singaporeans like Alvin Ho and Joshua Kho, who bought into the campaign's narrative, it came across as being "irresponsible fake news".

"A silly way of drawing attention to an issue," wrote Mr Ho.

Mr Kho said: "Regardless of intention, using deliberate misinformation is disrespectful and childish. You've lost my trust, WWF. This was 'Fake News' for me."

Addressing the unhappiness online, WWF's Ms Tan told the BBC: "The overwhelming and strong response towards Ivory Lane made it very clear that people in Singapore have a zero tolerance stance towards the illegal wildlife trade."

"We saw the need to take such an approach as Singapore is a significant player in the illegal wildlife trade, both as a transhipment hub and demand market," she said.

"People had to be aware and care about our role in illegal wildlife trade, in order to drive change."


Charity launches spoof Singapore ivory store in awareness stunt
John Geddie Reuters 8 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A wildlife charity set up a fake online ivory shop in Singapore, attracting widespread condemnation, in a stunt to underline local laws which it says continue to facilitate illicit ivory trade globally.

A week after the launch of Ivory Lane, which purported to sell vintage ivory jewelry items through an online store and social media accounts, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on Tuesday unveiled it was behind the stunt.

WWF said the campaign “sparked a heated debate on wildlife trade, national legislation and enforcement in Singapore” garnering 65,000 reactions on social media.

Singapore banned the commercial import and export of ivory in 1990, although ivory that entered the market before 1990 is still permitted for sale in the city-state. WWF says this continues to facilitate illicit ivory trade globally as recently poached ivory could masquerade as vintage ivory.

The Singapore government is looking into implementing a domestic ban on the sale of ivory, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore said in an emailed statement, adding that the implementation details are currently being worked out.

WWF’s investigations found more than 40 shops in Singapore selling ivory products and numerous online listings on popular e-commerce and classified platforms. In physical shops, WWF investigators said traders explained how to smuggle ivory across borders undetected which they said showed how easily the loopholes in the law can be misused.

Singapore, a global trading hub, has made large scale-seizures of ivory in recent years and conservation groups say it acts as a transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade.

Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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