Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged to start a legislative process to end ivory trade in Thailand, seizing a key opportunity to stem global wildlife trafficking at the opening of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok.
Her statement came after a petition calling on Thailand to ban its ivory trade was signed by nearly 1.5 million WWF, Leonardo DiCaprio and Avaaz supporters. Prime Minister Shinawatra said that Thailand would take steps to end ivory trade – the first time the Thai government has said this publicly.
“As a next step we will forward amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end on ivory trade and to be in line with international norms,” Prime Minster Shinawatra said. “This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”
The prime minister’s decision comes as WWF and TRAFFIC continue asking CITES governments to sanction countries fuelling the global illegal wildlife trade. Poaching has escalated to crisis levels in recent years, and is a major threat to iconic species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.
Ending ivory trade in Thailand – currently the world’s largest unregulated ivory market – will go a long way in stemming a global poaching crisis that is leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year and fuelling a global criminal trade in animal parts.
Thailand, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo have failed repeatedly to address their rampant domestic ivory markets despite CITES rules that outlaw the unregulated sale of ivory. Under treaty rules, CITES member states can recommend that parties stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from timbers to crocodile skins.