elephant whisperer herd returnsWith the threat of sanctions against her country looming, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today pledged to end ivory trade in Thailand, seizing a key opportunity to stem global wildlife trafficking.

It was the first time the Thai government has said publicly that it would take steps to end ivory trade and came at the opening of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The head of the World Wildlife Fund delegation said, “We’re thrilled to hear that Prime Minister Shinawatra took this opportunity to seize the global spotlight and pledge to end ivory trade in her country. But (she) now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues.”

Ending ivory trade in Thailand – currently the world’s largest unregulated ivory market – would 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.

The Prime Minister told the convention, “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. This will help protect all elephants including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”

Thailand is currently the largest illegal ivory market behind China. Officials have certified 67 authorized ivory vendors. However, market surveys have found ivory in more than 250 shops. Much of this ivory is purchased by foreign tourists.

The prime minister’s decision comes as WWF and TRAFFIC continue asking CITES governments to sanction countries fueling the global illegal wildlife trade.

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.


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