Sat, Dec 19, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Conservation group calls for full ban on ivory trade

SAVE THE ELEPHANTS:Taiwan set an example by banning rhino horns and should show its leadership by doing the same with ivory, the EIA’s Allan Thornton said

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The president of an international conservation group urged Taiwan to impose a complete ban on ivory trade, after Vietnam seized a container of elephant tusks and pangolin scales reportedly transshipped from Taiwan last month.

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) president Allan Thornton met with Forestry Bureau Director Lee Tao-sheng (李桃生) this week and urged the bureau to work with the US and other governments to save African elephants by establishing a sunset clause on the sale of registered ivory products as a prelude to imposing a complete ban.

Taiwan currently allows limited trade in ivory products. The Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) stipulates that ivory products imported into the nation before 1995 can be registered with county governments and legally traded. Only non-commercial imports and exports of legally certified ivory are allowed.

Most registered ivory products are stamps or artifacts, but the bureau does not know how many ivory products are on the market, it said.

“Whether it’s robust or not, such a registration system creates a loophole and enables ivory trade to continue, as traders would seek to secure registration with fraudulent means,” Thornton told the Taipei Times.

On Nov. 22, Vietnamese customs seized 860kg of elephant tusks and 2 tonnes of pangolin scales labeled as “frozen fish,” with the shipment reportedly smuggled into the country from Taiwan.

Thornton said Taiwan’s role in the illicit ivory trade, although small, is mainly to provide an intermediate shipment destination for laundering of smuggled tusks, which is “a stain on Taiwan’s reputation.”

A complete ban on ivory trade to eliminate the demand for elephant tusks is the only way to save elephants, he said, adding that Taiwan has played an important role in the international ban on rhino horns and the subsequent rhino population recovery.

After the US imposed trade sanctions on Taiwan in 1994 for failing to halt the use of tiger and rhinoceros products, Taiwan outlawed the trade in rhino horns, which not only terminated domestic demand, but also encouraged China and other Asian countries to do the same, effectively helping the global rhino population to restabilize, he said.

“Taiwan should again show its leadership by completely banning ivory trade, and the nation would be showered with praise,” he said

The bureau said it would start to conduct an inventory of registered ivories to assess the feasibility of establishing a sunset clause to phase out ivory trade.

“Taiwan has all the legal measures in place. All that is lacking is the political will to do so [banning ivory trade],” Thornton said.

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