Thai ivory crackdown driving massive drop in sales

ivory3Thailand has achieved a massive drop in sales of ivory goods in Bangkok as a result of new rules and increased enforcement against domestic sales of the precious commodity, according to a survey released last week by TRAFFIC, a regional wildlife protection group, which said Thailand is an outstanding example of a country that has reacted positively to calls to take action on ivory.

Thailand was identified as a country of “primary concern” by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [CITES] in 2013 because of its role in the ivory trade. The global trade in ivory has led to the slaughter of elephants and rhinoceros across Africa, threatening their extinction.

“Thailand is an outstanding example of a country that has reacted positively to being put into a National Ivory Action Process [NIAP] and the huge decrease in legal ivory openly for sale on the streets is reflective of the changes propelled by CITES,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Program Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

The NIAP is an accountability mechanism introduced by CITES for countries seriously implicated in the illegal ivory trade, and asks them to put in place strict measures to address a range of issues that facilitate the illegal trade in ivory.

Thailand had already taken important steps to protect its own elephant population, but the Kingdom was being used as a smuggling point for illegal ivory from Africa. Much of the smuggled ivory is ultimately destined for other countries in Asia, but some of it also ended up being sold in shops in the Kingdom. Critics said Thai laws on domestic ivory were too lax to prevent that, and in response Thailand has changed its laws and regulations and implemented a CITES-approved action plan.

TRAFFIC conducted an 18-month survey of Bangkok’s ivory market released last week and titled In Transition: Bangkok’s Ivory Market. It concluded that the action plan was working. It documented a 96 percent drop in the amount of ivory openly for sale in Bangkok markets over the past two years, from a high of 7,421 ivory items in 2014 to just 283 products by June this year.

“This dramatic turnaround is a market reaction to new regulations on domestic ivory and a very public commitment to law enforcement by the government,” Kanitha said.

Janpai Ongsiriwittaya of WWF-Thailand said that while the results have been positive, “it is critical that law enforcement efforts continue to focus on eliminating the illegal ivory trade.” She added that the authorities need to ensure the results are being replicated in other markets across Thailand, and to keep an eye on ivory sales over the internet, which are increasingly being used to circumvent the laws.