Thai regulations on ivory contribute to reduce poaching

Robust regulations passed by Thailand to control and discourage the Kingdom’s remaining but diminishing legal ivory trade have contributed to a reduction in poaching of elephants in Africa, according to the head of conservation group WildAid, although China’s decision to ban all ivory sales in 2018 was the most important development.

“Thailand has enacted strong regulations to control the ivory trade over the past two years. Since the ivory act was introduced, 42 percent of all traders (91 in total) have filed voluntarily to revoke their licenses by mid-2017,” WildAid said in a press release last week.

The demand for ivory, mostly in Asia, has led to the mass slaughter of elephants and rhinoceros in Africa. Some conservationists have warned that the African elephants may become extinct in coming decades if poaching is not stopped. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that the population of African elephants declined by 111,000 over the past ten years. From several million at the beginning of the 20th century, less than half a million African elephants remain in the wild today.

WildAid said the measures taken in recent years by Asian countries have resulted in a dramatic drop in poaching. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service poaching is down in Kenya from 390 elephants killed in 2013 to only 46 last year, and by 55 percent in Tanzania in 2016 compared to 2015. However, poaching is still rampant in some other African countries.

While WildAid said that China’s ban on sales of all ivory products starting January 1, 2018 is the “single greatest step toward reducing elephant poaching,” because China is the largest market, the organization also praised Thailand, Viet Nam and Singapore for the steps they have taken.

“Thailand has also seen a 58 percent decrease in sales of registered ivory items compared to mid-2016. No new purchases of ivory inventory have been reported by licensed ivory sellers in Bangkok in the past two years,” WildAid said.

To educate the public and discourage demand, Thai conservationists launched a noteworthy public service campaign with photos of elephants and prominent people and celebrities who declared “I am #ivoryfree.”

More than a market, Thailand’s role in the ivory trade is that of a smuggling node or transshipment point for ivory traffickers. The Kingdom, though, has stepped up enforcement, with seizures at airports and other shipment routes more frequent than in the past. Thailand works with groups such as Freeland and TRAFFIC to sharpen its response against trafficking.

Furthermore, Thailand was a driving force in the creation of ASEAN-WEN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network, and collaborated with the United States in its founding and development.