Thailand's Prime Minister commits to ending ivory trade

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
March 04, 2013



Forest elephants in the Mbeli River, Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, Congo. Photo by: Thomas Breuer.
Forest elephants in the Mbeli River, Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, Congo. Photo by: Thomas Breuer.

Yesterday, Thailand's Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, committed to ending the ivory trade in her country. Her announcement came during the opening of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, which seeks to regulate trade in biodiversity across borders. Wildlife groups say that Thailand's legal trade in domestic ivory—international ivory is illegal of course—has created an easy opening for smugglers from abroad. Currently the ivory trade in Thailand is estimated to be second only to that of China.

"We will forward amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end on ivory trade and to be in line with international norms," Prime Minster Shinawatra said at the conference. "This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa."

Shinawatra's announcement came after a global campaign by WWF and Avaaz that gathered almost 1.5 million signatures.

Elephants are being decimated across Africa for the illicit ivory trade. According to recent surveys forest elephants in Central Africa have been hardest hit. The Okapi Faunal Reserve has lost 75 percent of its elephants to the trade in just 15 years, while 11,100 elephants were slaughtered in Gabon's Minkebe National Park since 2004. Forest elephants have recently been shown to be a distinct species of African elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). Savannah elephants are also being hit hard, including in many places where poaching had long been absent. Whole herds of elephants, including babies, have been killed buy well-armed poachers in some parks.

According to WWF, most of the ivory sold in Thailand is not bought by locals, but "foreign tourists."

Conservation groups were generally happy about Shinawatra's message, but noted that now Thailand needs to step-up with a deadline and further details.

"The fight to stop wildlife crime and shut down Thailand’s ivory markets is not over. 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," Carlos Drews head of WWF's delegation to CITES said in a statement.

Thailand is only one country of concern when it comes to elephant poaching; other countries include Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Wildlife groups expect elephants poaching, as well as rhino poaching, to take a large place at this year's CITES meeting.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (March 04, 2013).

Thailand's Prime Minister commits to ending ivory trade.

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0304-hance-cites-elephant-thailand.html