WWF-Canada Blog:

Thai prime minister must seize spotlight to end ivory trade

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expected to make the opening speech for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) taking place in Bangkok next week. This key moment will set the tone for the negotiation.

Thai Prime Minister

Her speech comes only days after she was presented by WWF with more than 500,000 signatures from across the world calling for a ban on the trading of ivory in Thailand, which is one of the world’s largest unregulated markets for ivory. A decisive call for legal reforms from the prime minister would put a major dent in the global illicit trafficking of ivory.

Earlier this week, the prime minister said she would take the WWF petition ‘into consideration.’ Meanwhile, the call for her to take action has grown, with a million people signing onto the petition.

“After years of failing to end this unfettered trade, Thailand should grab the spotlight and shut down these markets that are fuelling poaching of elephants in Africa. This would allow the country to avoid trade sanctions at CITES,” said Carlos Drews, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

The call for the ban on ivory trade in Thailand comes as WWF and TRAFFIC are 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. The countries most implicated in illegal ivory trade include Thailand, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“Thailand can continue to be one of the worst offenders or become a champion for conservation and the rule of law,” Drews said.

Thailand, Nigeria and DRC 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.

In Thailand, criminals are taking advantage of Thai laws allowing the sale of ivory from domestic elephants to launder massive quantities of illegal African ivory through Thai shops. Much of this ivory is purchased by foreign tourists.

To learn more about WWF and TRAFFIC’s campaign visit panda.org/killthetrade and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.