Wildlife conservation body WWF has pulled a stunt in Singapore to highlight loopholes in the law that allow for the sale of ivory.
A profitable ivory trade in the city state endangers conserved elephant species that are hunted for their tusks.
To combat this, the charity created a local campaign to infuriate and mobilise the public, developing a fake ivory fashion brand to underline that the commodity is still legally sold on the island.
WWF's online shop and designer brand was called Ivory Lane. here consumers could ‘buy’ ivory goods, mimicking some 40 other shops it found to be doing the same.
By catfishing the public with the scheme, WWF provoked an outcry. It also went to put on the record the nuances in the law that enable the sale of ivory.
While ivory imports were banned almost three decades earlier, ivory that arrived in the nation before 1990 can still legally be sold. On top of this the animal product is still smuggled in and is sold using this legal loophole. As a result, since 2000, Singapore authorities have seized 13 tonnes of ivory.
YouGov research found that only 8% of people in Singapore understand the current legislation on ivory. Half of the respondents even thought that the trade of elephant ivory is already banned in Singapore.
The campaign predictably provoked a response on social media.
When the jig was up, WWF had to come out and address its captive audience with the truth. It claimed to have reached 250,000 people and garnered 65,000 reactions within six days as of 7 August.
Since then, the stunt has gained some international media coverage, including BBC News, only expanding that reach.
Elaine Tan, chief executive officer of WWF Singapore, said: “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.”
Not everyone was pleased with the deception. The group had to roll out some damage control – after its point had landed with a mass audience.