Thai Prime Minister Vows To Ban Domestic Ivory Trade
March 4, 2013

Thailand’s Prime Minister Vows To Put An End To Ivory Trade In Her Country

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The prime minister of Thailand has pledged to take steps to change the country´s currently legal domestic ivory trade in order to help protect endangered elephants, various media outlets reported Sunday.

Speaking during the opening day of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Yingluck Shinawatra announced that she would be amending Thai law with the intention of putting an end to a market which some have said has served as a catalyst for illegal poaching activities in Africa, said BBC News Environment Correspondent Matt McGrath.

“Elephants are very important for Thai culture. Unfortunately, many have used Thailand as a transit country for the illegal international ivory trade," Shinawatra reportedly said during the opening hours of the two-week-long conference of over 150 countries in Bangkok.

"We will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade. This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa,” she added.

Currently, it is permitted to sell items created from the ivory of the 2,500 wild elephants living in Thailand, and there are less than 70 vendors authorized to market such items, according to Damian Carrington of The Guardian. However, he added that market research has located ivory in more than 250 shops, many of which are believed to be passing off ivory illegally obtained in Africa as having originated domestically.

Shinawatra issued her statement after receiving a petition from 1.5 million people around the world, Carrington said. However, according to AFP reporter Amelie Bottollier-Depois, the prime minister has not yet given any timetable to suggest when these changes might be enacted. That lack of details has led to some criticism of the announcement, McGrath said.

“Some campaigners were delighted with the announcement, saying they understood the proposed changes would protect all forms of elephants including Thailand's wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa,” the BBC News correspondent said. "Others though were more cautious.”

"While it is positive that the host country has recognized the size of the ivory issue and the importance of it, we were disappointed by the lack of a clear commitment to banning the domestic trade," Philip Mansbridge, head of wildlife charity Care for the Wild, told the McGrath. "We don't feel it has gone far enough."

Some details of the plan were detailed by Pongphon Sarnsamak of Thai newspaper The Nation. Sarnsamak reported that the prime minister plans to begin a program to register all Thai elephants being kept in captivity, and will also check ivory shops to determine the quantity of products currently being stocked or sold domestically.

"This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thai wild and domestic elephants or those from Africa," Shinawatra said. "I must stress that no one cares more about elephants than Thais and I believe that Thailand will be a strong ally in the fight against illicit trafficking in ivory.”