DISTURBING online videos document the illegal killing and trade of wildlife, including film of poachers who shoot elephants with AK-47 assault rifles to take only their tusks, and poachers who shoot rhinoceroses with tranquilizer guns and remove their horns with chain saws.
But the World Wildlife Fund, whose causes include fighting the illicit killing and trade of wild animals, does not dwell on such imagery. A new public service campaign by the group, for example, features a print ad that shows a majestic elephant in profile, its trunk curled into an ampersand above its tusks. “I am not a trinket,” says the headline.
“Tens of thousands of elephants are killed every year for their ivory tusks, which are made into everything from knickknacks to souvenirs,” the ad continues. “Find out what you can do to stop wildlife crime.”
Another print ad features a photo of a healthy rhinoceros over the headline, “I am not medicine.” It continues, “At least one rhino is killed every day due to the mistaken belief that rhino horn can cure cancer and hangovers.”
An ad featuring a tiger declares, “I am not a rug.” Another, with a marine turtle: “I am not a souvenir.”
The tagline on all of the ads reads, “Stop wildlife crime — it’s dead serious.”
The campaign, which includes ads for areas like airports, buses and bus shelters, was produced internally. Distribution is by the PlowShare Group.
Terry Macko, the senior vice president for communications and marketing for the World Wildlife Fund in the United States, said the latest campaign followed the organization’s tradition of showing “charismatic megafauna” in peak form rather than imperiled.
“Individuals are really turned off by graphic images and we don’t need to show gratuitous violence to really show what is happening to species around the world,” Mr. Macko said.
“We look for our advertising and marketing to be inspirational, and we think that is best done when we show the promise of the future and what we aim to protect.”
The campaign was introduced on a limited basis in September online and in Washington, with the ads on buses, in bus shelters and at both Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan National Airport. While the effort aims to raise awareness with the public, in Washington it also was directed at policy makers in Congress and the State Department.
The ads, which rely on donated placement from media outlets and outdoor advertising companies, also began to appear in October in cities including St. Louis, Los Angeles and Tampa, but the advocacy group said that its biggest effort to get ads placed was under way now.
The World Wildlife Fund is particularly eager to promote the campaign in advance of theConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITES, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in March in Bangkok.
That same month, the campaign will begin appearing in airports in eight cities, including Las Vegas and Atlanta, and on about 1,500 billboards across the country. When Major League Baseball season opens in the spring, five teams will include the public service announcements in their programs, including the New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The organization reports receiving about $50 million in free advertising each year.
The fund estimates the value of illegal wildlife trade to be about $10 billion annually, and it reports that rhino poaching in South Africa increased 3,000 percent between 2007 and 2011.
In 2011, 26.4 tons of ivory was seized around the world — the equivalent of tusks from about 2,760 elephants — the highest since an international ban on commercial ivory trading was instituted in 1989, according to Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network.
In July, owners of two jewelry stores in Manhattan pleaded guilty to selling illegal ivory goods valued at more than $2 million. And in September, a father and son in Los Angeles pleaded guilty to the illegal trafficking of rhino horns from the United States to Asia, horns that were antiques, often removed from old, mounted trophies, which are not illegal unless they are transported across state lines or out of the country.
The World Wildlife Fund began in Morges, Switzerland, in 1961, and the second national office formed in the United States that same year. Its familiar panda logo was introduced at the time, modeled after a popular panda at the London Zoo, Chi Chi.
Today the group operates in more than 100 countries; the American group alone claims 1.25 million members.
Its spending on lobbying, which surged to $1.6 million in 2009, has dropped steadily since, totaling $162,465 in 2012, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
While the anti-poaching campaign will stretch over the next year, a weeklong publicity initiative promoted by Leonardo DiCaprio, a World Wildlife Fund board member, began on Monday.
Supporters are being encouraged to share posters of a tiger, rhino and elephant with the words “Hands off my parts” on Facebook and Google Plus, and to send Twitter messages about illicit wildlife trade using the hashtag #HandsOffMyParts.
The broader anti-poaching campaign has also been promoted on Facebook, where the group has more than 651,000 followers.
The World Wildlife Fund has posted the ad with the elephant and the headline, “I am not a trinket,” on its Facebook page twice, and it was shared more than 2,200 times by users on their own Facebook pages.