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Ivory Trade May Be Banned in Thailand, Saving Elephants

Ivory Trade May Be Banned in Thailand, Saving Elephants

Thailand has taken an important step towards ending its ivory trade, but it is only a beginning. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra promised last weekend to start working with the legislature to ban the trade in a speech at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), which was attended by representatives from 178 countries. This was the first time a Thai official publicly pledged to ban the ivory trade.

Thailand currently permits the purchase and sale of ivory from domesticated local elephants. Yingluck said she would begin to act on her pledge with stronger local controls on Thailand’s internal trade and the flow of African ivory into her country by registering domestic elephants and ivory products. The next stage, she told the conference, would be to bring Thailand’s laws into line with international norms by ending the ivory trade altogether.

Yingluck said a ban would “help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.” An effective Thai ban on ivory could substantially reduce poaching since Thailand has one of the world’s largest ivory markets. In the last 14 months poachers killed over 32,000 elephants, more than at any time in recent decades. According to the BBC, “between 50 and 100 African elephants are killed every day for their ivory.”

These numbers confirm the World Wildlife Fund’s assertion that there is “a global poaching crisis that is leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year and fueling a global criminal trade in animal parts.” Though CITES outlaws the trade it is thriving in the unregulated markets of Thailand, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thailand faces a long road to closing down its ivory trade. Yingluck’s speech was a start, but “the fight to stop wildlife crime and shut down Thailand’s ivory markets is not over,” says Carlos Drews of WWF. “Prime Minister Shinawatra now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues.” Environmental Investigation Agency executive director Mary Rice agrees: “I’m not opening the Champagne yet.”

Rice has a point. The deputy director of Thailand’s Department of Parks and Wildlife said that banning the ivory trade is a long-term goal that might happen “step by step in the future — maybe.” That does not inspire confidence that Yingluck’s words will lead to new laws.

Thailand already prohibits the purchase and sale of ivory from wild elephants, but a loophole allowing trade in domesticated local elephant parts gives poachers plenty of room to do business by claiming all their ivory is local.

Even if Thailand implements the laws Yingluck promised, enforcement will be challenging. The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Achim Steiner, said that wildlife trafficking

in a terrible way has become a trade and a business of enormous proportions — a billion-dollar trade in wildlife species that is analogous to that of the trade in drugs and arms. This is not a small matter. It is driven by a conglomerate of crime syndicates across borders.

CITES Director-General John Scanlon agreed that criminal syndicates smuggle animal parts across borders, and said that their killing of African elephants and rhinos is one of CITES’ main concerns. But he is optimistic about shutting the law-breakers down. He said that the world already knows how to stop the criminals; “we now need the collective will.”

Unfortunately, CITES members rejected a bid to end the ivory trade on Thursday.


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11:18AM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

thanks for sharing

10:35AM PDT on Mar 27, 2013

......."may be" banned????

No, not good enough, not until this hideous practice of killing animals for their hides and their horns and their supposed medicinal benefits is stopped completely. Animals need to stop being murdered in order to satisfy humans arrogant and imagined needs.

7:22PM PDT on Mar 25, 2013


3:55AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

I live in Bangkok and read weekly news articles about smugglers being caught at the airport and on borders. I also agree with SJ J’s comment above that law enforcement in Thailand is a struggle. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for effectively implemented legislature. Better addressing the ivory trade should be a priority of Thailand law.

3:49AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

It’s about time that Thailand law

6:23PM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

Does this mean that they are playing mind games with the rest of the human population who are serious about this horrific crime towards animals, that must stop?

3:32PM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

You know what amazed me the most in this article? The last paragraph, and especially the last line!! The perfect example of hypocrisy! They rejected a bid to end the ivory trade.... and why on earth is that??

12:45PM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

Thank goodness Thailand is taking a step in the right direction! But Asian politicians can be devious, because corruption is part of the system.

I live in hope that the right thing happens!

10:06AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

Gee thanks Thailand for doing the right thing after all these years!

9:49AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

Sick people who kill these beautiful animals...they are God's creatures and not ours to use and abuse. We are all more than just the sum of our parts.

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