A leading wildlife conservation group has called on Thailand to ban all ivory trade, saying that it fuels the slaughter of elephants in Africa as well as domestically.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a worldwide petition calling on Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ban the ivory trade in the country. According to the organization large amounts of ivory imported from Africa are being laundered via shops in Thailand.
“I’m sure many foreign tourists would be shocked to learn that ivory trinkets on display in Thai shops may come from elephants massacred in Africa,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, the director of Species Conservation at WWF, in a statement Monday.
“These items are illegal to bring into the United States and we have to find a way to get them off store shelves and out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists,” she said.
The WWF pointed out that while it is against Thai law to sell ivory from Africa and other countries, it is legal to sell ivory taken from elephants killed domestically. However, many smuggling groups have exploited this loophole and flooded Thai marketplaces with African ivory, as it is difficult to tell where the ivory is coming from without DNA testing.
The group found that Thailand’s ivory market is the largest unregulated trade of its kind in the world, and drives much of the elephant killings in Africa.
“Existing laws are not effective at keeping illegal African ivory out of the Thai market. The only way to prevent Thailand from contributing to elephant poaching is to ban all ivory sales,” stated Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, the campaign leader of WWF–Thailand.
“Today the biggest victims are African elephants, but Thailand’s elephants could be next. … I believe Thai citizens will support greater protection for these iconic animals,” he said.
In recent years elephant poaching in Africa has surged as ivory demand has soared in Asia. Earlier this month, a family of 12 elephants were shot and killed in Kenya, the largest number of elephants killed in a single incident in the country since the early 1980s.
Each year, tens of thousands of elephants are killed for their tusks, according to the WWF. Last year’s killings were the highest on record.
Ivory is used to create a number of luxury items, including jewelry and statues. A pound of ivory can cost as much as $900 in China.
On Tuesday, Thai officials said there would not be a ban on domestically harvested ivory in the near future because measures have been implemented to curb the problem.
“It is not doable to ban all ivory trading at the moment,” wildlife official Theerapat Prayurasiddhi told AP. “This is because in the case of domesticated elephants, it’s within the owner’s rights to do what he wishes with the remains of an elephant after its death.”
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.