Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Thai ivory trade killing African elephant: WWF


An international conservation group yesterday urged Thailand to ban all ivory trading, warning that rising demand for tusks is fueling an unprecedented slaughter of elephants in Africa.

The WWF said “massive quantities” of African ivory are being imported illegally into Thailand, where they are carved into Buddhist statues, bangles and jewelry that are then sold to tourists or smuggled elsewhere.

Although it is against the law to sell African tusks in Thailand, ivory from domestic elephants can be traded legally.

“Many foreign tourists would be horrified to learn that ivory trinkets on display next to silks in Thai shops may come from elephants massacred in Africa,” WWF’s Global Species Program manager Elisabeth McLellan said. “It is illegal to bring ivory back home and it should no longer be on sale in Thailand.”

The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned all international ivory trade in 1989.

However, Thai traders and smugglers have thrived because the ban never addressed the domestic markets and it is difficult to tell where ivory originated without DNA testing.

Criminal networks have exploited that loophole to flood Thai shops with “blood ivory from Africa,” the WWF said.

“The only way to prevent Thailand from contributing to elephant poaching is to ban all ivory sales,” said Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, the WWF’s campaign leader in Thailand. “Today the biggest victims are African elephants, but Thailand’s elephants could be next.”

Africa is in the midst of a crisis that saw tens of thousands of elephants slaughtered last year alone.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the international trade in ivory has reached its “highest ever recorded rate.”

Poaching is up because of increasing demand from Asia — particularly from China. However, poor African villagers also have much to gain because they can collect vast sums relative to their normal earning power for killing an elephant and taking its tusks.

Yesterday, the group launched a global petition drive urging Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ban the trade to curb illegal killings on the African continent.

In March, representatives from governments worldwide are to attend a CITES meeting in Bangkok to discuss wildlife issues, including rampant elephant poaching.

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