Illegal Ivory Trade in Thailand

by Admin on July 29, 2012

Thailand may be known for its elephant symbolism throughout history but the illegal ivory trade has continued to filter through the country.

Recently, Thai customs authorities confiscated about 1,000 pounds of ivory at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. One official estimated that it took around 50 elephant deaths to produce this large amount.

Much of the ivory coming into Thailand is from African elephants and is sent to other countries such as China. However, the issue of poaching Thailand’s smaller elephants for their ivory has still not been fully controlled. The poaching along with dwindling forests in Thailand have decreased the already small elephant numbers.

The nations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) came together this week to discuss ways to control the flow of ivory in Asia. One proposal was to regulate all ivory items sold through a monopoly that would filter items being sold. In other words one organization or company would allow retailers to sell only certain ivory and everything would need to go through a predetermined checkpoint. And even though shooting elephants for ivory has been forbidden by law since 1989, many Thailand retailers claim that the ivory items are from before the ban and should not be under any sales regulations.

Edwin Wiek, the founder and secretary general of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, noted that it will take more than just a filter system to actually stop the illegal trading.

“Regulation of ivory trade, including the sales…I don’t think it’s going to work,” said Wiek. “The ivory in Thailand is not protected in that there is a trade within the country with Thai domestics.”

In June of this year Thailand listed the African elephant as a protected animal under the 1992 Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act in order to curb the illegal trade . The law prohibits possession and trade of protected wild animals and their parts but does not include overseas wild animals on the list.

Interview with Edwin Wiek:

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